Australia approves AstraZeneca vaccine
Australia’s medical regulator granted provisional approval for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, bolstering a national inoculation programme it plans to begin rolling out next week.
The vaccine boost came as Australia’s second-most populous state neared the likely end of a five-day snap lockdown sparked by a fresh cluster of cases.
The federal government says it has ordered enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will mostly be manufactured in Australia, to cover the country’s population of 25 million people.
It has also ordered enough doses of a vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, which is being manufactured offshore, for a fifth of the population, Reuters reported,
“Australia now has two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised news conference.
The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has a 95% efficacy rate and has already been approved, arrived in Australia on Monday and authorities have planned the first inoculations for Feb. 22.
The first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be manufactured overseas, is expected to arrive in March. The bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccine will subsequently be manufactured in Australia, which authorities have said will protect the country from demand shock abroad.
Australia has reported a total of just under 29,000 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths, with border closures and speedy tracking systems helping keep numbers relatively low compared with other developed countries.