PM: Extra 20 million Pfizer doses coming to Australia
Scott Morrison has said Australia has secured an extra 20 million does of the Pfizer vaccine as Australia has now administered 1,077,511 vaccines.
"Through our advance purchase agreement with Pfizer these additional 20 million Pfizer doses means that Australia will now receive a total of 40 million Pfizer doses in 2021," he said.
"It is anticipated that these additional 20 million doses will be available in quarter four of this year."
"Australia has entered into four separate agreements for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and these include agreements with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novavax and COVAX. These agreements now total up to some 170 million doses."
The company also issued a statement saying it was continuing to have "ongoing constructive discussions" with the Australian government.
"More than one million doses have been delivered and we continue to be on track to meet our commitments," it stated.
"Pfizer is committed to working collaboratively with all governments to support the global public health need for COVID-19."
Mr Morrison defended the AstraZeneca jab, saying advice given by ATAGI was not a "prohibition" of the vaccine.
"The most vulnerable people in our community are not just over 50, they are actually a lot older than that," he said.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine is well suited to address those critical vulnerable groups."
Health Minister Greg Hunt said for those who may be immuno-compromised or front-line workers who are under 50, they are working with the States and Territories and the medical authorities to revise that part of the program so as they have access to Pfizer.
"That will take time. We recognise that as those Pfizer doses become available but we are working on that front. Then as we move into phase 2A, that itself is also focused on the over 50s and over 60s and their access to AstraZeneca remains unchanged," he said.
Australia's biggest health company CSL has also said it "remains committed" to fulfilling its contract with the federal government to produce 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, despite health advisers warning Australians under 50 not to get the jab.
It comes as Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has said "nothing is off the table" to help fix the nation's vaccine supply shortfall.
Prof Kelly suggested that the government was even considering a deal with Moderna to redress vaccine shortfalls.
"We are looking at all of those options right now. We know that Novavax - we have 51 million doses on order - is not yet approved by the TGA.
"The TGA will absolutely expedite that matter and as soon as Novavax is ready to supply to Australia we will be going through those processes," he said.
He also called on Australians to maintain confidence in the vaccination rollout.
"Of course something like the announcements overnight can affect vaccine confidence," he told the ABC.
"But the important thing is for the Australian public to know that as soon as we've known something, as soon as our expert advice from the ATAGI group gives us the guidance on immunisation, we went out and informed the public.
"We've made this preference for not using AstraZeneca in the under 50s on the basis of that safety concern but I would really urge people to make sure that they are lining up when it's their turn."
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with the states and territories today to talk about how Australia's vaccine rollout will continue with supply gaps after new advice on the usage of the AstraZeneca jab.
Flanked by Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Health Dr Brendan Murphy and Health Minister Greg Hunt last night, Mr Morrison accepted new medical advice that Australians under the age of 50 should preferably get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The advice will affect the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the federal government has only secured 20 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine.
Unlike the AstraZeneca jab being manufactured by CSL in Australia, the Pfizer vaccine cannot be produced in Australia.
Australia has also signed supply contracts for 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.
This is still yet to be approved by national medical regulators.
Mr Morrison said they would see a "recalibration" on the vaccine rollout, and work through the logistics "in an orderly way".
"The task now overnight, through the course of tomorrow and over the weekend there will be a recalibration of how the program will need to be adjusted to take into account the decision the government has taken tonight to accept those recommendations from ATAGI," he said.
"There are of course Pfizer vaccines in Australia and we are getting a regular supply of those and they can be prioritised against the individuals."
Dr Murphy said Australia continued to negotiate with Pfizer for more doses, and he said he was confident they could get more supplies.
"We are working with them almost on a daily basis to see when they can increase their supply," he said.
After the EU regulator found the AstraZeneca jab was linked to "rare but serious blood clots", the UK revised its advice and will not be giving the vaccine to younger people.
At a late-night press conference in Canberra last night, Prof Kelly said the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) had advised younger Australians, who have not yet received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, should get the alternative jab: Pfizer.
Australians aged over 50 will continue to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the medics described "highly effective".
"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," he said.
"People that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose. This includes adults under the age of 50, and 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."
Mr Hunt said more than 996,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given on Thursday and the government is expected to reach its first one million dose milestone soon.
TGA MAKES IT EASIER TO DELIVER PFIZER VACCINE
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has agreed to make it easier to store and transport the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Australia - as health experts around the countries decide the future of the embattled AstraZeneca jab.
The TGA has today approved the storage and transportation of unopened vials of the vaccine at domestic freezer temperature levels of -25 degrees to -15 degrees Celsius for up to two weeks.
This marks a major improvement in the logistics of managing the vaccine which was previously required to be stored at "ultra-cold" temperatures.
A temperature between -90 degrees and -60 degrees Celsius will still be required for longer term storage.
"Vials stored or transported in this manner can also be returned to ultra-cold longer-term storage within the original shelf life of the product," a statement read.
The TGA added that unopened vials can also be stored for up to five days at domestic refrigerator levels between 2 degrees and 8 degrees Celsius.
"Within this five-day period, up to 12 hours may be used for transportation," the TGA advised.
"But the time used for transport of unopened vials at refrigerator temperatures counts against the five day limit for storage at 2°C to 8°C."
The vaccine cannot be refrozen once it has been thawed.
The TGA added that the vaccine is diluted with saline prior to administration and the diluted vaccine can be stored or transported at room temperatures of up to 30 degrees for up to six hours.
Originally published as Supply gaps: PM to meet with states on vaccine rollout changes