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Australia accelerates pace of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out

Australia accelerates pace of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out

A sign for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic is seen as high-risk workers receive the first vaccines in the state of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, Feb 22, 2021. (File photo: REUTERS/Sandra Sanders)

CANBERRA: Australia on Monday (Mar 22) began accelerating the pace of COVID-19 inoculations after Canberra approved local manufacturing of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.

Australia's Minister for Health Greg Hunt said about 1,000 general practitioners will now be able to administer AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's a signature day for Australia," Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

Anyone aged 70 and above, people with underlying health issues and members of Australia's indigenous population more than 55 years old - about 6 million people in total - are now eligible to receive the inoculation.

READ: Australia relieved after EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Previously, Australia's nascent COVID-19 vaccination programme has been conducted at a small number of hospitals and by specialist teams.

So far, more than 1 per cent of Australia's 25 million population has received at least one dose of either AstraZeneca's or Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine amid tight global supplies.

But Australian supplies are set to be bolstered after the country's pharmaceutical regulator on Sunday approved the local production of the AstraZeneca vaccine by CSL.

Within 12 weeks, CSL is expected to produce 1 million doses of the vaccine each week.

READ: Will air travel bubbles take off or burst? Don't pack your bags yet, experts say

All adult Australians are expected to be vaccinated by the end of 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said, after initially targeting end-October.

While Australia's hastens the pace of its vaccine roll-out, it is under less pressure to do so than many of its global counterparts.

Australia has reported more than 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 COVID-19 deaths, far fewer than many developed countries, helped by international border closures, lockdowns and strict social-distancing rules.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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