An extra 417,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna will be sent to Victoria to combat Melbourne’s surging COVID outbreak, a move welcomed by Premier Daniel Andrews after complaints his state had missed out on mRNA vaccines.
The new vaccine shipments come after the federal government secured another one million unwanted vaccine doses from European allies, and coincide with the long-awaited launch of a $50 million advertising campaign to encourage vaccination.
“Victoria is currently dealing with a continued surge in cases, just
like we saw in New South Wales,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
But it was up to a journalist at Mr Andrews’ press conference – held at the same time as Mr Morrison’s announcement – to tell him the news, with the Premier claiming he hadn’t been officially informed of the “vaccine blitz” by the federal government.
“Good,” Mr Andrews said when told of the announcement.
“Apparently how our national government works these days. But anyway, I’m delighted to know that. That’s fantastic news.”
More Moderna coming
One million doses of Moderna’s COVID vaccine, an mRNA-type similar to Pfizer, were due to arrive in Australia this month.
The federal government announced on Sunday an additional one million doses – sourced from Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Bulgaria – would also arrive in September.
The extra Moderna doses were “surplus vaccines” ordered by those countries, while the governments of Norway and Sweden were involved in the transport of the vaccines.
Moderna’s vaccine, known as ‘Spikevax’, will be available for Australians aged 12 to 59, and distributed through pharmacies from next week.
Another nine million doses are scheduled to arrive between October and December.
Mr Morrison spruiked the new Moderna shipment as “a family-sized dose of hope”, encouraging parents and their kids to get vaccinated together at their local pharmacy.
“This additional supply also enables us to direct urgent supplies where they are needed most, and make up the final ground for everyone in Australia to be offered a jab, originally set back in January for in October,” the PM said.
“In October we’re going to have enough vaccines in the country to have offered everyone a jab.”
Australia hit 22.69 million vaccine doses on Sunday, a daily increase of 195,000.
It means 67.4 per cent of the adult population have received at least one dose, and 42.3 per cent have received two.
Victorian ‘vaccine surge’
Following criticism last week of NSW having received more doses than their per capita share – due to emergency doses rushed in for Sydney’s escalating outbreak – Victoria will be prioritised for a flood of mRNA vaccines in September.
Melbourne’s hotspot areas in the northern and western suburbs will be a key focus of the three-week “vaccine blitz”.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said 417,000 extra vaccine doses would come into Victoria this month, including 127,000 extra Pfizer doses for GPs and 108,700 more Pfizer doses for the state-run hubs.
Victorian pharmacies will also get a big boost to their Moderna supplies, an extra 180,700 doses on top of the previously announced 119,500.
“Vaccines are our road out of COVID and that is why the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce has worked closely with the Victorian government to increase the numbers of primary care sites and allocations of Pfizer to those sites,” Mr Hunt said.
Mr Andrews was livid after reports last week that NSW had received more vaccine doses than their per capita allocation, thanks to the federal government surging supplies to GP clinics in Sydney hotspot areas.
In a furious press conference, he had called for a “make-good” top-up for Victoria to even up supply.
On Sunday, he welcomed news of the vaccine surge, but claimed the federal government hadn’t told him.
“I’ll wait until the Commonwealth government actually pick up the phone and announce it, tell us,” Mr Andrews said.
“But hopefully there are many hundreds of thousands of doses coming to Victoria. That’s what we’re owed.”
Mr Andrews announced on Sunday that the Victorian government would launch five new community pop-up vaccine clinics and eight new school-based ones in Melbourne’s north and west, with as many as 70 “to open soon”.
The Premier also said the state government was adding extra booking slots and extending hours at existing vaccine hubs. He said the federal government’s surge would be “in addition” to state initiatives.
Long-awaited ad launches
The Victorian vaccine surge came the same day the federal government launched an ad campaign titled ‘First Things First’.
Showing pub drinks, wedding dances, family dinners and holiday road trips, the TV commercials encourage vaccination so Australians “can start enjoying the things we are missing,” Mr Hunt said.
“This campaign targets those who are still unsure to be vaccinated.”
Mr Hunt was encouraged by recent government research that found 81 per cent of Australians either already have been or intend to get vaccinated – a figure he said was “extremely encouraging as we strive to reach the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates”.
The federal government has been criticised for months for not rolling out ad campaigns earlier to combat vaccine hesitancy and complacency.
Vaccine supply co-ordinator Lieutenant General John Frewen admitted in June that the delay was due to a lack of supply of doses at the time.
However, with the latest supply of Moderna and tens of millions of doses of Pfizer by the end of the year, Mr Morrison said he was confident those supply issues were now resolved.
“We have 11 million mRNA vaccines coming in October, and again in November,” he said on Sunday.
“In September, that is where we needed to bridge that gap, and we did.
“We will have 11 million mRNA vaccines here in Australia this month, and that was the target. That was the job we had to do, and we have been able to fill that gap.”