Scott Morrison says it’s possible all Australians could receive first doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of the year, with a surge before Christmas. On Wednesday, the prime minister abandoned his opposition to significant vaccine hubs, which Labor and doctors have pushed for.
He changed his position after announcing he would meet with state and territory leaders twice a week to get the derailed rollout back on track, with the first of the meetings scheduled for Monday.
Mr. Morrison used a business speech in Perth to talk up the progress being made on the vaccination campaign. The rollout has been heavily criticized for its slowness compared to those overseas and for unmet promises by the federal government. He said Australia’s rollout pace was comparable to other nations, noting some “challenges we need to fix,” including global supply chains and medical advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s side effects on under-50s.
The immediate priority was to ensure Australia’s most vulnerable people received their jab by mid-year, using AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. “However, we will still need to see the impact of any potential vaccine hesitancy from that (AstraZeneca) advice on overall take-up rates,” Mr. Morrison said.
The fourth quarter of the year would be when the campaign is ramped up.
Medicine regulators are expected to hold talks with Novavax on Thursday as the company moves closer to getting approval for its vaccine, making it the third mainstay in Australia’s arsenal.
“In the fourth quarter, we expect that surge of the additional 20 million Pfizer doses and the existing contracted Novavax,” Mr. Morrison said. “This will, assuming the supply chains holding up for those vaccines, enable mass vaccinations in the final quarter of this year.
“Our task now is to work with the states and territories to find the best method for mass vaccination to be achieved in that fourth quarter, or earlier if those doses become available sooner.
“And if we get that right, it should be possible – assuming supply chains and vaccine hesitancy not getting beyond us – to do that balance of the population this year.”