From today, all Australians aged 12 and over can access either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, making it the first time that all eligible Australians can have the vaccine they choose.
This comes after news that both Pfizer and Moderna would be opening up to those above the age of 60 for whom only AstraZeneca has so far been available.
While the AstraZeneca vaccine is still recommended and supported by both ATAGI and the federal government, issues with blood clotting and poor media coverage early in the rollout left many sceptical of the vaccine — preferring to wait for an mRNA vaccine.
Currently, there are 300,000 Australians over the age of 60 who are not vaccinated and the widening of access is aimed at getting those in the more vulnerable age groups a jab.
For months, government supply of the vaccines has been a key bottleneck in vaccine access. The Australian government did not order vaccines when they had the chance in August of 2020, preferring to wait until November of 2020 when a deal was finally signed with Pfizer.
This left the country months behind other nations like the US and the UK, who begun vaccinating in December of 2020, while Australia did not start until March of 2021.
Even then, the vaccine rollout did not pick up significantly, owing to supply issues, until May of this year.
Now, as we enter October, the country has finally managed to match supply of vaccines with the demand. Australia has recently received millions of doses of Moderna and Pfizer through September and will continue to receive millions more in the coming months.
Nine million Pfizer jabs and three million Moderna are expected to land in the country in October alone.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, head of the national COVID taskforce, has said that individuals who have been holding out for a vaccine have been “putting themselves at risk for many months”.
However, he confirmed that as supply is no longer an issue in Australia, today is “an inflection point in the campaign where we go from the supply drivers to the demand drivers.”
This means that the government will now shift from getting enough vaccines out to the population to working to convince people who are hesitant about the vaccine to get the jab.
Frewen said that complacency and hesitancy are contributing to low vaccination rates in both Western Australia and Queensland.
“There are populations who haven’t been in outbreaks yet and I stress to them that Delta moves fast and, when it finds a way, it will hit hard,” he said.
While those populations will now become the government’s focus, Frewen noted that there are currently no plans to offer incentives to reluctant groups, saying instead that the options of “choice, convenience and freedom” would be key motivators.