Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout will now begin in mid- to late February. Vaccination will commence with workers dealing with international arrivals or quarantine facilities, frontline health workers and those living in aged care or with a disability.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “optimistically” aims to vaccinate 80,000 Australians a week, and four million by the end of March.

The first vaccine doses were initially planned for March, but the rollout has now been brought forward, pending the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, anticipated by the end of January. Morrison said it would take a further two weeks for the first shipments of vaccine to arrive after that.

The government envisages delivering the vaccine via 1,000 distribution points, including general practitioners and possibly pharmacists.

If the government’s ultimate target is to still vaccinate a minimum 80% of Australians (widely viewed as the threshold for herd immunity) by October, time will be tight to give 21 million people the requisite two doses.

The biggest threat to this timetable will be continued COVID outbreaks that take up health workers’ valuable expertise and time.

Australia has a longer time frame for hitting 80%, but a population three times the size of Israel’s. Overall, an average of about 170,000 injections per day will be needed to deliver the necessary 42 million doses to 21 million Australians over 245 days (March to October).

Extrapolating from Israel’s 325 injecting sites we would need more of them. The Australian government has identified 1,000 injecting sites. One recipient injected every 15 minutes seems to be the standard.

To achieve 80% injection coverage (two injections for 21 million people) every 15 minutes, would require each injecting site to have at least eight injectors per day, or 8,000 across the 1,000 distribution sites nationwide.

Australia’s government plans to use GPs and pharmacies as injecting sites. Staff at each location will need to be trained for the logistics about timing and keeping record of the type of vaccination each recipient receives.

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