When will you get the COVID-19 vaccine?


By late February — just a few weeks from now — the first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia are expected to get their first jab.

It’s a huge logistical challenge to vaccinate to everybody in Australia who wants to be, so the Government is grouping people based on things such as their job and how vulnerable they are to the disease.

The group you’re in determines when you’ll be able to get the vaccine.

Ok so that’s where you sit, but you probably have a few more questions.

How did we come up with these estimates?

All the calculations here are based on published government strategy documents and targets explicitly stated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt or their spokespeople.

Like all estimates, we should be cautious with them.

To date, only one vaccine — the most difficult to deliver and for which we have a smaller supply contract — has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). While the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine — the one that can be produced in Australia — is expected to be approved soon, it hasn’t happened yet.

In addition to potential hurdles in approval and supply, there has been mixed success delivering vaccinations in parts of the world where it’s already started.

The US, for example, despite now managing to deliver a huge 1.3 million doses per day, has had significant challenges around communicating with priority groups, service providers and things as simple as booking appointments.

Some countries where vaccinations have already started are achieving remarkably fast rollouts. Israel, the country with the fastest on a per-capita basis, has been delivering more than 100,000 doses per day and the UK has topped 400,000 doses per day.

To achieve the Government’s stated goal of offering everybody in Australia a vaccination by the end of October, the rollout would need to ramp up quickly to a rate exceeding what most other countries have managed, on a per capita basis.

The exact rate required will depend on things like how quickly the rollout gets going and the percentage of people who ultimately opt to be vaccinated, but could easily be upward of 200,000 doses per day. The longer the ramp-up takes, the higher the peak delivery rate would need to be.

A group of researchers from University of New South Wales has said that while achieving the government’s goals is possible, it’s not a certainty and “dedicated large-scale vaccination sites” may be required to get there, something the government hasn’t yet outlined as part of the plan.

Why am I so far down the queue?

If you find yourself further down the vaccine queue than you’d hoped, remember that’s maybe for good reason. The Government’s strategy is designed to prioritise the most at-risk people.

“We are ensuring we first protect those who need it most. These are the people who are most at risk of exposure and severe disease,” said a Queensland Health spokesperson.

Which vaccine will I get?

This is a common question posed by ABC News readers. A spokesperson for the federal health department told us that “specific vaccines will be administered based on availability and subject to any determination made by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.”

Although it still hasn’t received final approval from the TGA, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has previously said most Australians will get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Those people in the highest priority groups are more likely to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been approved by the TGA.

Who is in each of the groups?

The Government has divided Australian residents in to five major priority groups, each with up to six sub-groups.

Group 1

Sub-group Number of people
Quarantine and border workers 70,000
Front-line health care workers in priority sub-groups 100,000
Aged and disability care workers 318,000
Aged and disability care residents 190,000

Group 2

Sub-group Number of people
Adults aged 80 years and older 1,045,000
Adults aged 70-79 years 1,858,000
Other health care workers 953,000
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 55 years and older 87,000
Adults 18 years and older with underlying health conditions, including those with a disability 2,000,000
Critical and high risk workers including defence, emergency services and meat processing 196,000

Group 3

Sub-group Number of people
Adults aged 60-69 years 2,650,000
Adults aged 50-59 years 3,080,000
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 18 – 54 years 387,000
Other critical and high risk workers 453,000

Group 4

Sub-group Number of people
All other adults 6,643,000

Plus catching up on unvaccinated Australians from higher priority groups above.

Group 5

Sub-group Number of people
People under 18 years if recommended 5,670,000

You might have some questions around specifically how the priority groups outlined above are defined and the people in each group identified. We did too, so we asked the health departments in each state and territory as well as the federal department.

Unfortunately, their responses didn’t make it much clearer.

Some of the states and territories indicated that they’re working with the Commonwealth to nut out the details, and all of them referred us to the Federal Government for further clarification.

A spokesperson for the federal department said: “Access to vaccines will be provided to those identified by [the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] as priority for vaccination, wherever these priority groups may be located.”

How will I know when it’s my turn?

The Federal Government says it is running a public information campaign across television, radio and digital platforms to tell Australians when, how and where to get the vaccine.

It says Australians will be able to check online if they are part of the current priority group at that time. There will also be a COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline for advice.

Will family members of high priority people get the vaccine at the same time?

In short, no. The Federal Government says family members of high priority groups will get the vaccine according to the group they are personally in. 

But, if a person with a disability is unable to be vaccinated (if, for example, they refuse the vaccination or have risk factors which mean getting the vaccine would not be recommended), their families and carers will be considered a priority.

Notes

  • The Government has stated a target of 80,000 doses per week to start, ramping up to 4 million doses by the end of March, and everyone who wants a vaccine to have been offered one by the end of October 2021.
  • For the purpose of calculating when you might be offered the vaccine, we’ve taken ‘late February’ to mean 22 February. For simplicity, we have assumed a flat rate of vaccine delivery whereas in reality, the targets above suggest the government expects a ramp up period of about six weeks as capacity builds and supplies become available.
  • We have assumed a consistent vaccine acceptance rate of 70 per cent. This is based on statements by Government figures that they expect vaccine acceptance to be high as well as interviews with vaccination experts who shared that expectation and cited surveys showing around 80 per cent of adults intend to get the vaccine when it’s offered. This is broadly in line with recent surveys, including one commissioned by the ABC. However, experts also cautioned that it’s unlikely all people who say they intend to be vaccinated ultimately will be.
  • The date estimates have been made using the ranked priority and size of sub-groups in each phase of the rollout, so different people in the same major group may see different date estimates depending on their rank within the group.



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