Australia has granted “preliminary approval” for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. This makes it the first coronavirus vaccine in the country to receive regulatory approval, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said in a statement on Monday.

According to the TGA, the vaccine met “strict standards for safety, quality and effectiveness” and the preliminary approval is for people aged 16 and over.

The Pfizer vaccine went through Australia’s normal regulatory process, which is why it was introduced later than some other countries that allowed it for emergency use.

The first vaccines will be given in late February, starting at 80,000 doses a week, Health Secretary Greg Hunt said in a news conference on Monday. Australia bought 10 million cans of Pfizer, enough for 5 million people in a country of 25 million.

Australia had hoped to launch its vaccination program in mid-February, but Pfizer’s rollout was delayed by global supply problems.

The vaccine rollout is expected to begin in 30 to 50 hospital locations, and those in need of protection most, such as B. Frontline health workers and quarantined border workers will be the first to receive the shots, according to a joint press release from the country’s prime minister and health ministers

The vaccine will roll out in five phases over the coming months and will eventually include more than 1,000 vaccination sites, the press release said.

“I applaud the TGA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as our own Australian experts determine that it is safe, effective and of a high standard,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Although the Pfizer vaccine was the first to be approved, most people in Australia are receiving the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine, which is still pending regulatory approval. Australia plans to manufacture this vaccine at a domestic manufacturing facility that is expected to produce around 1 million doses per week by the end of March.

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