Australia begins mass vaccination drive

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Australia on Monday began its mass COVID-19 vaccine programme with frontline healthcare staff and senior citizens getting the first doses as the country looked set to report no local cases for the third straight day.

A group of 20 that included Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday received the first shots of the vaccine while the broader rollout started Monday morning with authorities expected to administer more than 60,000 doses by the end of the week.

“Today is a real milestone in our collective response to tackle COVID-19 and bring things as rapidly under control as we can,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television.

The vaccine, jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech, will be rolled out in the initial weeks while AstraZeneca’s first batch is expected to reach the country in the next two weeks.

Some 60,000 doses are set to be given this week, starting with frontline workers, from healthcare staff to hotel quarantine employees and police, and residents of aged care homes.

Australian news media showed the first shots being administered to medical and quarantine staff in Melbourne and Sydney, a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison received his first dose of the vaccine in a “curtain-raiser” event aimed at convincing Australians the vaccine was safe.