Australia’s vaccine rollout is ‘well short’ of initial targets

© (Photo by LUIS ASCUI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ASCUI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
People at a mass vaccination centre to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Melbourne on April 21, 2021.

This week Australia passed the milestone of administering 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The rollout is in phase 1a and phase 1b of the federal government’s rollout plan, which includes vaccinating:

  • Quarantine and border workers and their household contacts
  • Frontline health care workers
  • Aged care and disability staff and residents
  • Critical high-risk workers in defence, emergency services and meat processing
  • People aged over 70
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50
  • Adults with underlying medical conditions or disabilities

The government allocated 16.2 million doses for these groups, although it’s not clear how many people it expects to vaccinate during this phase. 

The next phase — phase 2a — will begin from May 3 and will see people aged over 50, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 18, able to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at GP and vaccination clinics.

For this phase the government has allocated 31.8 million doses.

How is Australia’s vaccine rollout tracking?

As Australia’s top infectious diseases expert Dr Nick Coatsworth pointed out on Twitter, the rollout is on a promising trajectory.

“Past 2 million vaccine doses given today!!!! 47 days for the first million, 19 days for the second million,” he wrote on Wednesday.

But the number of vaccine doses administered has fallen well short of initial government forecasts.

In January the government said vaccinations would begin in late February, aiming to have four million adults vaccinated by the end of March and 20 million by the end of October. 

While the rollout did begin on February 21, it never picked up the momentum to meet those March or October targets.

[Datawrapper: Australia’s vaccine rollout compared with earlier forecasts]

The vaccine rollout is currently three million doses short of where it was supposed to be.

At this pace, Australia’s adult population will not be fully vaccinated until March 2024.

Looking at where doses have been administered around the country, New South Wales and Victoria lead the pack with more than 200,000 doses administered each, while the Northern Territory trail the group with just over 16,200.

[Datawrapper: COVID-19 vaccinations in each Australian state and territory]

But when it comes to the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose it is clear there is still a long way to go.

[Datawrapper: Percentage of population to have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine]

Why is Australia so far off its target?

Two big reasons are vaccine supply and the health concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Australia had secured doses of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines but was relying on AstraZeneca for the majority of the rollout.

Nearly four million doses were ordered from European manufacturers last September for early 2021, but in January AstraZeneca said just 1.2 million doses would be delivered by the end of March due to export controls.

Australia missed that end-of-March target of four million doses, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed on the undelivered doses.

In late March, Australia began manufacturing its own doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of the CSL plant in Melbourne.

Around this time, concerns around blood clotting saw several and some such as Denmark stop using the vaccine altogether.

After a meeting with Australia’s top vaccine and medical regulators, the government changed its stance around the vaccine, recommending doses should only be given to people over the age of 50 and causing another bump in the road for the nation’s vaccination efforts.

Not long after that, a 48-year-old Australian woman died from blood clotting — which the Therapeutic Goods Administration later confirmed was likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine she had received.

Source: Thanks