Australia has secured an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns that the much-needed supply will not arrive until the end of the year.
"The Australian Government has secured overnight an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in line with the advice of the scientific advisory group on vaccines," Morrison said at a press conference this afternoon.
"It is anticipated that these additional 20 million doses will be available in quarter four of this year, that's our current instruction, and we will obviously be doing everything we can to seek to move that forward where we can but that is very welcome news, particularly in the light of the information that we received from ATAGI [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] last night."
ATAGI met following a recommendation by British authorities that the AstraZeneca vaccine not be given to young adults because of strengthening evidence the shot may be linked to rare blood clots. Australia has been relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine; the vast majority of Australians had been expected to be jabbed with the locally produced AZ shot this year.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly made the announcement yesterday that health authorities had advised the Pfizer vaccine should be given to Australians aged under 50 amid the ongoing concerns of rare blood clots being potentially linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"Immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual's circumstances," Kelly said. "People who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of Covid-19 AstraZeneca should not be given the second dose."
Morrison said the country's various vaccine agreements now take the total amount of doses secured for Australia to 170 million.
He said it had been a "fairly busy" evening working with Pfizer and the company had been a "very good partner".
Australia's opposition party has denounced the Morrison government over the country's vaccine rollout.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese labelled the AstraZeneca development a "debacle" and criticised the government for not buying a wider range of vaccine candidates.
"Labor was warning for a long period of time that we needed to do what international best practice told us we should do, to have access to five or six vaccines," he said.
"The fact that we now have such uncertainty about the rollout is a direct result of an arrogant government that was too focused on the 24-hour media cycle and not focused on what Australia needed."
Albanese has repeatedly criticised the Prime Minister for Australia's sluggish vaccination uptick.
"Scott Morrison said that we were at the front of the queue. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
"Australia's struggling to get into the top 100 when it comes to the rollout of the vaccine. Where in areas like the United Kingdom we have 60 per cent of the adult population have been vaccinated. Israel's right at the top with 100 per cent of their population being vaccinated. And we're struggling to get beyond 2 or 3 per cent at this point in time."
It was reported last week that Australia is falling far behind its Covid-19 vaccine schedule. By the end of March, Morrison had hoped 4 million Australians would have received their jab. However, just 670,000 people had been vaccinated at March 31.
"Scott Morrison said and repeated on January 7 the clear commitment that 4 million people could be vaccinated by the end of March. We know that figure is less than one million to even receive their first jab," Albanese said.
"Australians won't forget who is responsible for failing to deliver on what are his own promises and his own commitments when it comes to these issues."