As the roll-out of Australia’s coronavirus vaccine program gets underway, Pfizer Australia medical director Krishan Thiru has told Today the vaccine could protect against other COVID-19 variants.
Final quality testing will be completed in the coming days before the roll-out begins on Monday.
From this shipment, 80,000 doses will be used immediately – 50,000 for frontline workers and 30,000 for aged care – while 62,000 will be set aside for second doses.
The government hopes to administer 150,000 jabs per day, with the goal of having the entire adult population vaccinated by the end of October.
Dr Thiru said laboratory testing indicated the Pfizer vaccine would retain its effectiveness against some of the COVID-19 new variants.
“Especially the UK variant but also some of the mutations in the South African and Brazilian variants have been looked at,” Dr Thiru said.
“If at some time in the future it becomes apparent it’s not effective, you can easily tweak the formula for the vaccine.”
The rollout is being dubbed Australia’s biggest peacetime operation, with a complex logistical process planned to get it around the country.
Special planes will fly the vaccine around the nation in refrigerated containers.
Dr Thiru addressed criticism levelled at the Australian government over how long the vaccine shipment took to reach our shoes compared to other nations.
“Every country’s situation is different,” he said.
“It is correct that in some places such as the United States and the United Kingdom, they started their vaccination programs early.”
Dr Thiru said a vaccine could not start production until it was ticked off by independent regulatory agencies.
“The TGA is one of the world’s most respected agencies,” he said.
“They didn’t have that emergency situation we’ve seen in some other countries.”
He said the company has shipped the vaccines to Australia with specially-designed thermal shippers, with a “99.9 per cent” success rate in “delivering the vaccines from the factory door to where they’re used”.
By the end of April, the government wants four million Australians vaccinated.