Vaccine rollout will ‘not cut corners’
Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly has moved to allay concerns that fast-tracking the coronavirus vaccine rollout could put people's health at risk.
Under the new vaccine timeline, priority groups scheduled to get the jab in March might now get access a month early.
The announcement came just days after Scott Morrison warned that rushing the process could be "very dangerous".
But Professor Kelly said Australia's drug regulator was ensuring that the Pfizer vaccine ticked all the boxes for a rollout in mid to late February.
"It would be dangerous to fast-track the rollout if we were cutting any corners," he told Today.
"We are going as fast as possible but not cutting any corners. Safety is our first priority."
Professor Kelly said the Therapeutic Goods Administration was working as quickly as possible to approve Australia's first coronavirus vaccine, which was expected to be given the green light by the end of January.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is then expected to be approved later in February.
Aged care and disability care residents and staff, frontline health workers along with quarantine and border staff will be among the first to get the jab at 30-50 vaccine hubs that will be established at hospitals across Australia.
Authorities anticipate that Australia will start the rollout with around 80,000 vaccinations a week and hope that four million Australians will be immunised by the end of March.
Several health experts have welcomed the timeline being brought forward saying the international border was the greatest threat.
But Flinders University Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, who is working on a coronavirus vaccine candidate, warned that premature approval of COVID-19 vaccines by Australia could have major negative public health ramifications.
University of Sydney Professor Julie Leask encouraged the government to be more forthcoming about the details of the immunisation program so the public could be confident about the way it was being rolled out.
"We need to see much more proactive and frequent communication," Prof Leask said.
"Government may not yet have full knowledge of some aspects of the program prior to TGA approval but what is known and planned now should be communicated in more detail."
National cabinet will on Friday meet to discuss the highly infectious UK strain and airline travel following new advice from Australia's expert medical panel.
Originally published as Vaccine rollout will 'not cut corners'