Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout received a boost this week with the approval of locally-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration signed off on Tuesday night on the release of four batches of the Melbourne-made jab – more than 830,000 doses.
But AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said the rollout won’t speed up until vaccine production reaches the target of one million doses a week.
“It will allow our GPs to continue to vaccinate patients along the government’s schedule,” Dr Khorshid told the ABC.
“It won’t actually speed up that schedule just yet because these doses were expected and, in fact, without them the program would have had to stop.”
CSL says there are a further 2.5 million doses in cold storage at Seqirus’s vaccine facility in Melbourne, ready for distribution in coming weeks following the final stages of batch testing and approval.
Dr Khorshid said the entire rollout hinged on local manufacturing of the vaccine.
“The rollout cannot continue without our local production. We heard last week they don’t expect any more AstraZeneca to come from overseas, so really it’s critical our local production comes online as quickly as possible.”
Dr Khorshid said many GPs across the country remain frustrated, with some clinics receiving as few as 40 doses to administer this week.
“It’s certainly still very difficult to book an appointment, largely because a lot of the practices weren’t completely ready for this and have been caught by surprise,” he said.
“The good news is there are more practices coming online every week, up to four and a half thousand by the fourth week, and that will make appointments much more available for those really in a hurry to get their vaccine.”
Dr Khorshid said this week’s rollout “marks a critical milestone in our pandemic response”.
“Obviously there will be disruptions with weather conditions across NSW, and we understand there will be delivery delays,” he said. “But so far we’re very pleased to see the phase begin.”