The federal government has welcomed the approval of a coronavirus vaccine by Britain but says the decision will not fast-track its approval in Australia.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said pharmaceutical company Pfizer continues to work with Australian regulators towards the vaccine’s approval for use in Australia, which is not expected until the end of January.
“I have again spoken to the Australian CEO of Pfizer, they remain on track for vaccine delivery once it is approved for use in Australia by the independent regulator,” he said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Pfizer is providing data on its vaccine’s safety and effectiveness to the Therapeutic Goods Administration as part of the approval process.
“Our advice remains that the timeline for a decision on approval is expected by the end of January 2021, and our planning is for first vaccine delivery in March 2021,” Mr Hunt said.
The vaccine by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is one of the four COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the federal government.
It was approved for use on Wednesday by the British government, which said it would be rolled out across the UK early next week.
The treatment is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses only the virus’ genetic code and not weakened forms of the virus as conventional vaccines do.
“Safety is our number priority and Australia is well placed both for a thorough, but rapid safety assessment and early rollout of a free, voluntary but entirely universally available COVID-19 vaccine program,” Mr Hunt said.
He welcomed the UK’s emergency approval of the vaccine as “an important step for the world”.
The developments in the UK came as Australia went without reporting a locally acquired infection on Wednesday and more states foreshadowed easing restrictions.
All 11 new cases of coronavirus reported on Wednesday were among overseas travellers in hotel quarantine in NSW (six), Queensland (three) and WA (two).