Australian officials have confirmed that nearly half a million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in the country.
These vaccines are the first batch of a swap deal with Britain that Australia is using to speed up its inoculation programme as the country battles a surge in cases that have put more than half its 25 million population in lockdown.
The vaccine swap deal was agreed on last week with the United Kingdom and Singapore, as Australia has been under immense pressure to intensify its vaccination programs. The deal includes a total of about 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Under the vaccine swap deals, Australia will return equivalent numbers of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Britain and Singapore later this year.
According to the Head of Vaccination task force, Lieutenant General John Frewen, “there will be another set of flights in a couple of days, but we’ll pretty much be getting a million of the four million every week over the next four weeks.”
The Lieutenant said one million doses of Moderna will also reach Australia in a week or so, expanding a vaccine rollout, which also includes AstraZeneca.
At this time, over 38 percent of Australia’s adult population has been fully vaccinated and the country is expected to reach 70 percent by early November based on current rates.
Recall that, Sydney and Melbourne residents, which are the country’s two biggest cities, as well as residents in the capital of Canberra are under strict stay-home restrictions which will be gradually relaxed when 70 percent of people above the age of 16 have been vaccinated.
New South Wales, the epicentre of the latest outbreak reported 1,281 new cases on Monday and five deaths. Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported 246 new cases on Monday, its biggest daily rise of the year.
Despite these outbreaks, Australia’s coronavirus numbers have remained relatively low compared with many countries around the world, including India and Brazil, at 61,600 cases and 1,039 deaths.