Health authorities have started the national rollout of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and aged residents became the first in Australia to receive vaccinations.
Mr Morrison received the Pfizer vaccine at Castle Hill Medical Centre in Sydney's north-west on Sunday morning, giving a "V for victory" sign and then a thumbs up after getting the jab.
Earlier, 84-year-old aged care resident Jane Malysiak, a World War II survivor who grew up in Poland during the Depression and who lives in Sydney's west, was the first person in Australia to receive the vaccine at 11.09am.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and the Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan also received vaccinations, as well as healthcare staff and other frontline workers including from the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force.
Mr Morrison afterwards said the vaccines addressed the risk of serious disease and widespread fatalities from COVID-19 in Australia, and would prevent scenarios seen in nations hit harder during the pandemic.
"This vaccination means that we move further away from that every single day," he said.
"If you reduce, remove the level of serious risk of serious illness then you can begin to start managing this like you would any other virus in the community."
Mr Morrison said he was supremely confident in the expert process that led to the first vaccinations.
"From tomorrow, tens of thousands of Australians over the course of the next week can confidently come forward from those key priority groups that have been defined to ensure that we move into this next phase of how we have been preparing and dealing with COVID-19," he said.
"The next step of that journey begins."
Both Mr Morrison and Professor Kelly also said they were confident most people would take the vaccine in Australia and that initial signs of hesitancy would dissolve as the rollout advanced.
Professor Kelly said overseas COVID-19 vaccination campaigns had shown decreases in hospitalisations, deaths and serious disease.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccinations on Sunday began Phase 1a of the national rollout. It starts what will be the largest program of its kind in the nation's history and forms a milestone in efforts to vaccinate people against the coronavirus after the disease arrived in Australia last year.
Phase 1a of the rollout will deliver vaccines to aged care and disability care residents and staff, frontline border protection and quarantine workers, and frontline healthcare workers.
Mr Hunt earlier told the ABC that border and quarantine staff, vaccination teams, aged care residents and workers, and emergency and intensive care workers would be among the first people to receive the free Pfizer jab from Monday.
The Health Minister and Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy will have the AstraZeneca jab at a later date.
Mr Hunt said Professor Kelly had advised that the Prime Minister receive one of the first Pfizer vaccinations along with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer to help provide confidence in the vaccine.
The Health Minister declined to specify how much of the population he would like to see receive a COVID-19 jab but wanted "as many as possible" to be vaccinated.
"What we see with both the two initial vaccines, the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine, the international evidence is that the safety impact for prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation, death has been determined to be up to 100 per cent," he said.
"It's safe, it's effective, it will help protect you, but it will also help protect your mum and dad, your grandparents, your nonna, all of Australia."
The vaccine rollout from Monday will deliver Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses to priority populations, and health authorities will administer AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines from March 2021.
Phase 1b will include people aged 70 years and older, immunocompromised people, Indigenous Australians aged over 55 years, and emergency services workers. Phase 2a will vaccinate people aged more than 50 years, critical workers and Indigenous Australians younger than 55, and Phase 2b will deliver vaccinations to the general balance of the population, Mr Hunt said.
Hospital vaccination clinics in each state and territory, and aged care and disability care facilities across the nation, will administer vaccinations.
Hospital-based vaccination clinics will increase in number as more doses of approved vaccines arrive in Australia. Vaccination teams will enter aged care facilities, including 240 across 190 locations this week, to deliver vaccines on-site.
AstraZeneca vaccines will initially be available at GP respiratory clinics, general practices meeting specific requirements, Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services, and state-run vaccination clinics.
Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines require two separate doses to provide full immunity. The Pfizer vaccine requires doses 21 days apart, and the AstraZeneca vaccine 12 weeks apart.
- With AAP