Australia: Australia started its COVID-19 vaccination program on Monday. Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have dealt relatively well with the pandemic either only recently started vaccinating or are about to, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday in a show of confidence in the product. Australia is prioritizing building public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines ahead of speed of delivery.
Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Deakin University, said countries that do not face a virus crisis benefit from taking their time and learning from countries that have taken emergency inoculation measures such as the United States.
“We’ve now got data on pregnant women who are vaccinated. Natural accidents happen in a real world rollout,” Bennett said. “All of those things are really valuable insights.”
Health and border control workers, and nursing home residents and workers started getting the Pfizer vaccine on Monday at hubs across the country. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt will get the AstraZeneca vaccine when it becomes available within weeks.
The vast majority of infections in Australia are travelers infected overseas who are detected during 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine. Australia has recorded 909 coronavirus deaths. New Zealand began vaccination last week after receiving its first batch of the Pfizer vaccine.
The nation of 5 million has successfully stamped out the spread of the virus and the first people to get the shots are border workers and their families. That’s a different priority group than in most countries and the idea is stop the virus spreading from any arriving travelers who are infected. After that, healthcare and essential workers along with vulnerable older people will be vaccinated.
However, the rollout of a program to vaccinate the broader population in New Zealand won’t begin until the second half of the year, behind many other countries.