Australia COVID-19 vaccine: What we know so far

Finally some good news. Here are the details on how Australia will handle the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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Close up of scientist doctor hand holding a sample test bottle of Covid-19 vaccine.

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Vaccinations against COVID-19 have already started in some parts of the world, including the UK and the US. While Australians will have to wait a little longer to get the potentially life-saving jab, roll-out day is on the near horizon.

This is undeniably great news, but lots of people still have a few questions about when the vaccine is coming, who will get it first, and if it's really safe. Here's what we know so far.

When will we get a vaccine?

The earliest vaccinations are scheduled to place in March 2021.

Health minister Greg Hunt confirmed in December that contracts had been signed which secured the roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine, starting in March. It's hoped that everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to access it before the end of the 2021 but Hunt has hinted that it could be as early as October.

At the moment, this is all still subject to approvals so it could change. However, Australia is currently on-track.

Who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first?

According to a December press release from the government, healthcare workers and aged care residents will be the first in line.

After that, it's likely prioritisation will go to people who are highly exposed to COVID-19, people who have an increased risk of dying from the disease and people who work in essential services.

In real terms, those groups look like this:

GroupWho it includes
People who are highly exposedHealth and aged care workers
Residential care and disability workers
Workers in correctional and detention centres
People working in meat processing facilities
People at higher risk of dyingOlder people
People with certain medical conditions
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
People working in critical servicesEmergency services providers
Defence forces
Public health staff
Staff managing quarantine facilities
People working in supply or distribution of essential goods and services

This system was confirmed back in November, when the government accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and developed a national vaccine strategy.

However, there's a chance the prioritisation could still change. For example, if a particular area of Australia is struggling with an outbreak when the vaccine becomes available, that region may be among the first to get it.

What will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

It'll be free for most people. According to the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, the vaccine will be free for all citizens, permanent residents and most visa holders.

In fact, the only visa holders who won't be entitled to a free vaccine are those on the following subclasses:

  • Transit visa (771)
  • Tourist visa (600)
  • eVisitor (651)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (601)

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. Australia will be getting a variety of different COVID-19 vaccines. All will be thoroughly tested to Australian standards before they're made available.

In some very rare cases, people have an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Your doctor will talk about the risks with you when you get your vaccination and give you advice on what to do if you have a reaction.

Does everyone have to get the vaccine?

No. The government won't force anyone to get vaccinated but it has urged as many people as possible to get the vaccination. Health minister Greg Hunt said he expected an uptake rate of around 80%.

Will the vaccine be a travel requirement?

Maybe. While the Australian government has said the vaccine won't be mandatory, the national vaccination policy confirmed there may be circumstances when it's required, including border entry.

Here's the extract:

"While the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate. There may however, be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination."

Which vaccine will Australia use?

It's likely to be more than one. So far, Australia has secured vaccine doses from three different providers.

University of Oxford/AstraZeneca - 53.8 million doses
Novavax - 51 million doses
Pfizer/BioNTech - 10 million doses

Picture: Getty Images

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