Australia begins COVID vaccinations with Pfizer-BioNTech jab

Up to four million Australians are expected to receive a COVID vaccine voluntarily by March.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Castle Hill Medical Centre in Sydney on February 21, 2021 [Steven Saphore/ AFP]

Australia has kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination programme a day ahead of schedule, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and an 84-year-old World War II survivor among the first Australians to receive the first dose of their coronavirus jabs.

Morrison and Jane Malysiak were injected with the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech at a medical centre in Sydney on Sunday.

Paul Kelly, the country’s chief medical officer, also received his first dose.

“We’re here making some very important points,” Morrison said moments before cameras captured Malysiak getting injected. “That it is safe, that it’s important, and we need to start with those who are most vulnerable and on the front line.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, looks on as 84-year-old Jane Malysiak becomes the first person in the country to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine [Steven Saphore/AFP]

Doses of the Pfizer inoculations, which need to be kept at temperatures well below freezing, were still being distributed to 16 vaccine hubs around Australia in preparation for the broader roll-out of the vaccines on Monday.

The group injected on Sunday included a small number of older Australians at the Castle Hill Medical Centre in the western part of Sydney, aged-care staff, as well as front-line nurses and workers.

The country is enjoying a second day without a single new COVID-19 transmission in the community, officials said.

Up to four million Australians are expected to receive a COVID-19 vaccine voluntarily by March, while the vast majority of the country’s population will be injected by the end of October.

Priority groups for the jab include aged care and disability care residents and workers, front-line healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers.

Australia, a nation of 25 million people, has already secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as well as 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

On Saturday, thousands of people attended anti-vaccine rallies in big Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, to protest what they incorrectly believed to be mandatory vaccinations.

Australia has reported just less than 29,000 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since March 2020. The country has ranked among the top 10 in a COVID-19 performance index.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies