Pfizer COVID vaccines arrive in Australia under UK swap deal

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In the wake of an outbreak that has shut down Australia’s two largest cities, the country is scrambling to get more vaccination supply. Pfizer COVID vaccines arrive in Australia under UK swap deal.

Nearly half a million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Australia overnight, officials have said, the first batch of a swap deal with Britain that Australia is using to speed up its inoculation programme as it battles a surge in cases that has put more than half its 25 million population in lockdown.

The immunizations arrived on Monday, according to the Reuters news agency.

Persons in the country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital, Canberra, are subject to tight stay-at-home restrictions, which the government says will be gradually eased once 70 percent of people over the age of 16 have been vaccinated.

Australia is under pressure to expand its immunization program, and this week it reached agreements with the United Kingdom and Singapore for a total of 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, more than doubling the supply this month.

“There will be another set of flights in a couple of days,” Lieutenant General John Frewen, leader of the vaccine task force, told ABC. “But we’ll pretty much be getting a million of the four million every week over the next four weeks,” he said.

One million doses of Moderna will also arrive in Australia in “a week or so,” according to Frewen, widening a vaccine rollout that includes AstraZeneca.

On current rates, just over 38% of Australia’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, with the country likely to reach 70% by early November.

On Monday, New South Wales, which is at the center of the newest outbreak, reported 1,281 new cases and five deaths. On Monday, Victoria, which includes Melbourne, reported 246 new cases, the highest daily increase of the year.

Despite recent outbreaks, Australia’s coronavirus infections and deaths have remained low in comparison to many other nations, with 61,600 cases and 1,039 deaths.

Australia will return similar numbers of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to the United Kingdom and Singapore later this year as part of the vaccine swap agreements.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters

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