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Australia, New Zealand receive first vaccine shipments

Christian Fernsby |
The first shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines arrived in Australia and New Zealand on Monday, officials said.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that over 142,000 doses of the vaccine arrived at Sydney Airport in a major development in the country's response to the pandemic.

"This is the first shipment of 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine the Government has secured as part of Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy," Morrison said in a statement issued by the office of the prime minister.

The country will roll out vaccines on Feb. 22, the premier said, adding: "Once the final safety checks are completed, we can start rolling out the vaccine to our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers."

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the vaccines will go through further check for quality and efficacy to "ensure all Australians have confidence in the vaccines they receive."

"Pending TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] approval, the Government has also secured 53.8 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses and 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. Each is sufficient to vaccinate every Australian who chooses to be vaccinated in 2021," Hunt was quoted as saying in the same statement.

Australia has also joined COVAX, an international facility, which provides access to a variety of vaccines to immunize up to 50% of the Australian population.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to receive provisional approval for use in Australia by the TGA.

Australia has reported almost 29,000 cases and 909 deaths from coronavirus, according to the running tally of US' Johns Hopkins University.

New Zealand also received the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

A total of 60,000 vaccine doses will be tested this week for quality assurance, Arden said, and once the safety check is complete, doses will be formally released to start the vaccination campaign.

"This will be the largest full-scale vaccination campaign in this country's history," Radio New Zealand quoted Ardern as saying.

According to the premier, the border workers are expected to receive the vaccine from this Saturday.

"We have purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free. That includes all those in New Zealand regardless of their visa status," she added.

New Zealand has reported over 2,300 infections and 25 deaths, according to Health Ministry data.

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