KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Australia’s Covid-19 immunisation drive is facing further delays from supply shortages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine caused by the central government’s decision to raise the age limit for AstraZeneca.
The country is most reliant on the AstraZeneca shot — given its local manufacturing capacity to produce over a million doses a week — followed by Pfizer.
However, the government’s decision to revise up the age limit for AstraZeneca jabs to those above 60 from 50, meant that all eligible people under 60 will be offered Pfizer — which is expected to put a strain on Pfizer stockpiles.
Australia is due to receive increased supplies of Pfizer from August. The government said Australia will have access to 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab this year, but it is unclear how many doses are available in stock.
The world’s sixth-largest country — dubbed one of the worst performers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the vaccination front — has administered 6,556,029 doses since its rollout began in February, with only 857,720, or just three per cent of the population having been fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Across the country, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sydney’s mask mandate will likely be extended beyond Wednesday after two new local Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday.
The state is also facing calls to reassess social distancing and density rules after it found evidence of “fleeting” infection of the Delta Covid-19 variant, with experts calling for greater focus on ensuring air ventilation.
According to The Guardian, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the Delta variant, which is behind this outbreak, is a “near and present danger”, given the fleeting contact between cases at the Westfield Bondi Junction Shopping Centre.
“It is fair to say that this Delta virus would appear to be a near and present danger to anybody who is in the vicinity,” he said.