Aussies may get Pfizer virus vaccine as soon as March, says health minister

Australians could start receiving coronavirus vaccinations from March next year with sophisticated Eskies set to transport the leading candidate.

Nov 11, 2020, updated Nov 11, 2020
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. (Photo: AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. (Photo: AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Wednesday the federal government’s vaccination program timeline is on track.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is reporting a 90 per cent effectiveness rate in late-stage clinical trials but needs more data to confirm it’s safe.

The Pfizer vaccine uses genetic information to tell the body how to develop an immune response to coronavirus.

That means it needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees.

Therapeutic Goods Administration head John Skerritt said cold chain logistics would be used to transport the Pfizer vaccine.

“They’re very sophisticated eskies which require dry ice. They actually last for 14 days and they can be refilled twice,” he said.

Adjunct Professor Skerritt said the two refills allowed a month and a half of storage without the need to connect to power.

“Even in a country the size of Australia you can get anywhere much quicker than that,” he said.

The TGA has given the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca candidates pre-approval provided they meet stringent final checks.

Hunt said the provisional determinations would bring the medicines to Australia faster with a premium on safety.

Australia has a deal for 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will manufacture 30 million of the Oxford candidate, while a further 3.8 million will be imported.

There are agreements with two others in place.

Hunt said Australia could be on track for a fourth consecutive day without community transmission.

“We nevertheless have to be aware that we will not be out of this until we have a nation which has had a full vaccination program,” he said.

Australia is among a handful of countries that are performing well on managing the virus.

Deadly fresh waves are sweeping the United States and Europe, with the disease killing more than 1.2 million people and infecting 50 million.

Victoria’s streak without new infections extended to 12 days as NSW notched a fourth day without community spread.

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