The first Covid-19 vaccine jab in Australia was given to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday, marking the start of the nation’s vaccination programme described by Morrison as a “massive step” that will enable it to return to normal.
Up to four million Australians are expected to be inoculated by March.
“This is the beginning of a big game change,” Morrison told reporters moments after getting injected with the Pfizer-BioNtech jab at a medical centre in Sydney. “Every day that goes past from here gets more normal. And that is what is exciting about today.”
The Cabinet is to review how its five-stage vaccination programme will change the way the country manages the risk of coronavirus transmission in future, including at its state and international borders, Reuters reports.
Australian states have introduced some of the strictest community mobility restrictions in the world to manage the spread of the virus, including intermittent city lockdowns, curfews and border closures.
Reporting a second consecutive day with no coronavirus transmission in the community, the nation has had just under 29,000 infections and 909 deaths since March, ranking among the top 10 in a Covid-19 performance index.
Morrison said the vaccine addresses his “greatest fear” as prime minister: “Serious disease and the sort of widespread fatalities that we saw overseas.”
A small number of older Australians resident in western Sydney, aged-care staff, and frontline nurses and workers were also among the first inoculated, officials said.
From Monday morning, a broader “phase 1-A” rollout is to begin among aged-care and disability staff, and border protection and quarantine workers at vaccine hubs nationwide.
“Phase 1-B” vaccinations of immunocompromised people and those over 70 years old, as well as indigenous Australians over 55 years old and emergency service workers, are to follow.
The vast majority of the population will be injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be produced locally, by the end of October.
On Saturday, thousands of people attended anti-vaccine rallies in major Australian cities to protest what they incorrectly believed to be mandatory vaccinations.