United Kingdom

Limited coronavirus vaccine supply could leave some Australians waiting longer for COVID-19 jab

Some Australians could be forced to wait longer than others when a COVID-19 vaccine does become available, experts have warned.    

The Federal Government has locked in a deal to get access to the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine as early as January.

Australians would receive 3.8million doses of the drug being developed by UK firm AstraZeneca in the first two months of next year.

National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance director Kristine Macartney told ABC the first batch would not be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. 

'It's highly likely there will be a limited supply of the vaccine,' she said.

'That reinforces the need to decide on prioritisation.'

Some Australians could be forced to wait longer than others when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, experts have warned (pictured, a nurse injects a volunteer during a COVID-19 vaccine trial)

National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance director Kristine Macartney told ABC the first batch would not be distributed on a first come, first serve basis (pictured, a commuter waits at a Melbourne train station)

The Federal Government has locked in a deal to get access to the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine as early as January (pictured, prime minister Scott Morrison tours AstraZeneca laboratories at Macquarie Park in August)

The Federal Government has yet to release specific details on how it intends to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Draft advice for the United Kingdom and United States provides a footprint for a possible 'tier' system.

Healthcare workers and vulnerable people are considered to be the top two priority groups.  

The US has added a third priority group that includes essential services such as public transport, education and food supply workers.  

The country has also suggested it could use a lottery system to decide who receives the vaccine first.

Oxford University's Health Economics Research Centre director Philip Clarke said the US was already using this system in hospitals during the pandemic.

'In the case of COVID-19, this is actually happening in the US where you haven't got enough drugs for the treatment of COVID-19, they are actually randomly allocating them, so it's fair rather than potentially people making arbitrary choices,' he said.  

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has been advising the government on future rollout plans.

The group has been regularly meeting to discuss key strategies that include distribution, manufacturing capacity and safety evaluations of the vaccine.

Plunkett Centre of Ethics' postdoctoral research fellow Xavier Symons admitted it was a difficult road ahead. 

Oxford University's Health Economics Research Centre director Philip Clarke said the US was already using this system in hospitals during the pandemic (pictured, a volunteer receives a jab during a COVID-19 vaccine trial)

'In other countries the issue may be, 'How do we convince people to be vaccinated?' but in Australia it's more like, 'How can we ensure that everyone who wants to receive the vaccine and needs to receive the vaccine, can receive it?'' 

The Federal Government has released a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment strategy document that presents a broad framework of distribution.

'Australian Government agencies are working with states and territories on transportation, storage and distribution plans,' it reads. 

The Australian Medical Association has called for more transparency on distribution plans.

President Omar Khorshid argued it was crucial the final details were shared with the public to prevent any confusion.

Daily Mail Australia contacted the Department of Health for comment. 

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