Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the beginning of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program as a “game changer”, as he joined a small group of people in becoming the first in the country to receive their jabs.
Key points:

  • The Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nurse, aged care residents, critical aged care staff and frontline workers have received Pfizer shots
  • Mr Morrison said it was the “Australian way” not to make the vaccine mandatory
  • Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was “critical” that the community had confidence in the vaccine program

Jane Malysiak, an 84-year-old World War II survivor who was born in Poland and moved to Australia as a teenager, was first in line for the Pfizer shot.
She led a list of 11 other people to receive the jab, including aged and disability care residents and staff, hotel quarantine workers and people in frontline health care roles.
The Prime Minister said it was a “historic day” that would transform Australia’s response to the pandemic.
“Today is the beginning of a big game changer, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
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“And its successful rollout will only further reduce the risk. And when you reduce the risk then obviously you do not need more blunt and extreme measures.”
Mr Morrison described today’s vaccinations, which included Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan, as a “curtain raiser” to the broader rollout.
“Tens of thousands of people will be coming in tomorrow and I wanted them to know as they went to bed tonight that we have been able to demonstrate our confidence in the health and safety of this vaccination, to let them know that it’s good to go,” he said.
WWII survivor Jane Malysiak becomes the first Australian to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I call on my fellow Australians, and I have, by my own example today, joined by the Chief Nurse of Midwifery and the Chief Medical Officer of our country, together with those Australians who are in the top priority of this vaccination program, to say to you Australians, it’s safe, it’s important.
“Join us on this Australian path that sees us come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mr Morrison says he understands people’s concerns about the vaccine.
Vaccine not mandatory for aged care workers to avoid ‘backlash’
The first phase of the program will involve vaccinating residents and staff in aged and disability care, along with border and hotel quarantine workers and people in frontline healthcare roles.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt defended the decision not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for aged care staff, saying the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) had decided against it.
Greg Hunt announces the first vaccinations will be administered to a small group of people today.
“Given that this is a new vaccine, they had no doubts about its safety or efficacy, but they didn’t want to create a resistance or a backlash,” he said.
“And so they take into account social factors when they do provide their recommendations. It’s their decision.”
Mr Morrison said it was the “Australian way” not to make the vaccine mandatory, but that it was up to the states and territories if they wanted to impose public health orders, as had already been done with flu vaccines.
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“As with everything in a pandemic, you watch the information, you take the advice, you see how it progresses and you make sensible decisions,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Hunt said it was “critical” that the community had confidence in the vaccine program.
“As more Australians take it, as we’ve seen around the world, and it’s shown to be safe, it’s shown to be effective, then that raises confidence across the community,” he said.
Facebook advertising ban while stoush continues
Mr Hunt also revealed he had directed his office and department not to advertise with Facebook while the social media platform was blocking news content for Australian users.
He later clarified that information would still be posted on Facebook but that the department would not be paying for it.
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“We’ll continue to provide information, what we wouldn’t be doing in the immediate future is doing additional paid advertising,” he said.
“These are social media outlets that have a general capacity to post, but then on top of that there’s the capacity to do paid advertising, and it’s that element which is not on the cards for now.”
Mr Hunt accused Facebook of acting like “sovereign bullies”, arguing it “won’t get away with it”.
Facebook restricted access to Australian news content last week in response to the federal government’s proposed media bargaining code.
But it also temporarily blocked the pages of health and emergency services agencies, prompting government accusations that it was damaging its own credibility.
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