The federal government has raised hopes that two coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out sooner than expected after the national death toll rose by one.
A NSW man in his 70s who was infected with COVID-19 in March only recently died of respiratory complications, the state government revealed on Monday.
The death raised the state’s COVID-19 toll to 56 and the national toll to 909.
As NSW battles the growing cluster, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt hinted the government could be ahead of schedule with its plan to roll out two coronavirus vaccines in Australia by the end of March.
“Our goal is to under-promise, overdeliver, and we expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, on the basis of it’s free, it’s universal, and it’s entirely voluntary,” he said on Monday.
“We’ve seen some very heartening reports over the weekend of an expected uptake of up to 80 per cent.
“We would like to see as many Australians as possible be vaccinated but, in order to do that, they have to have the confidence that our regulators are making sure that every safety step is ticked.
“And we’re ticking all of those boxes just a little bit earlier than expected.”
One vaccine has been developed by AstraZeneca and the UK’s Oxford University and the other by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Australia has ordered more than 50 million of the former and 10 million of the latter. Most of the AstraZeneca purchase will be produced in Australia by CSL.
Over the weekend, the global head of AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot said he believed his company’s vaccine had the “winning formula” in terms of storage and efficacy.
The AstraZeneca serums can be stored in a fridge while the Pfizer formulations have to be stored at minus-70C in specialised equipment.