Australia 'on track' to provide coronavirus vaccines in March 2021: health minister
Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt has declared that the country is "on track" to start administering coronavirus vaccines in March 2021.
Hunt on Tuesday welcomed the announcement from drugmaker AstraZeneca that its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was up to 90 percent effective.
"The news from overseas means that we are on track for first vaccines in March. So that will obviously start with the health workers, and, if approvals are granted, for the elderly," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
"And our expectation is that all Australians who seek it will be given access to a free vaccine on a voluntary basis during the course of 2021," he added.
Hunt and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September announced that the Australian government had reached a deal with AstraZeneca for 33.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"And so that means we have a pathway to, not just a COVID-safe Australia, but a fully safe Australia, a return to normal," he said.
In addition, he said that currently no Australians were on ventilators in hospital due to COVID-19, adding, "It says that Australians are winning. We haven't won yet because this disease is still abroad internationally."
"We're still on the watch every day for community transmission, but Australians have done an incredible job in what I think has been our finest year since the Second World War," he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon there had been 27,848 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and the number of new cases in last 24 hours was 13, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.
The department also said that the numbers of locally and overseas acquired cases in the last seven days were 10 and 82 respectively.