Victoria's Pfizer doses locked in for October

Vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has assured Australia it will receive 9 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine next month, providing certainty after state and territory governments were warned of a potential shortfall of mRNA vaccines in October.

The head of the national COVID vaccine taskforce, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, said Pfizer was initially unable to provide supply figures for the second half of October due to “global distribution management issues”, but said the updated figures would be provided to state and territory governments.

“In October we will have enough vaccines,” General Frewen said.

Victoria recorded 733 locally acquired cases of coronavirus on Friday. More than 71 per cent of the state’s population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 46.6 per cent had received two.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews first warned of a potential delay in Pfizer doses on Monday, prompting health officials to worry that vaccination hubs would be forced to ration doses and delay appointments next month when Victoria was expected to reach its 70 per cent double-dose target.

The supply shortage was confirmed at National Cabinet meeting on Thursday when state and territory leaders were given updated data, which showed their allocations of Pfizer would fall from 10.9 million in September to 8.4 million in October.

Health officials in Victoria, speaking to The Age on the condition of anonymity, said state and territory governments were normally given a full month of Commonwealth-allocated doses, allowing them to guarantee first and second-dose bookings.

Concerns were raised when the health department only received data for the first two weeks of October, prompting Mr Andrews to urge Victorians to instead book appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In response, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt phoned his Victorian counterpart, Martin Foley, to assure him supply would be met for October.

“We went through every week,” Mr Hunt said.

Video: Two-thirds of Australians over 16 years have had one dose of vaccine (Sky News Australia)

Addressing the delayed information on Friday, General Frewen confirmed Mr Hunt contacted the global pharmaceutical giant.

“Pfizer contacted us last week and was only able to provide the first two-week allocation at that point in time – it was to do with global distribution management issues with Pfizer,” he said.

“Pfizer have now said they’ll make up the full allocation across weeks three, and we expect week four.

“We are receiving the nine million doses that we expect in October; that is the assurance. There will be nine million doses of Pfizer in each month for the rest of the year. We will get two million doses of Moderna this month, and then we are expecting three million doses of Moderna for the rest of the year as well.”

Vaccine allocation data shows Victorian hubs will receive 205,290 Pfizer doses next week, 234,540 the week starting October 11, and 264,900 doses in each of the next two weeks.

Across all vaccination points of presence, including Commonwealth clinics, GPs and pharmacies, the state mRNA allocations will rise from nearly 756,000 doses next week to 893,000 by mid-October.

A state government spokesperson welcomed the confirmation of the full October figures, saying it would allow vaccine hubs to “put bookings in the system and get jabs in arms”.

“It’s critical the federal government ensures that, in the future, states get adequate notice of supply, so more Victorians can get vaccinated, and we can reach the national targets as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

Victoria will have to wait until next month to learn about the allocation of Pfizer vaccines for November and December, but General Frewen said demand was becoming more of an issue than supply.

He also confirmed a boost in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, which will be available in Victorian pharmacies and state-run vaccine hubs. He said the Moderna supply was initially under-quoted, and the extra supply would now be redirected to Victoria.

Mr Foley said Victoria’s 32,000 doses of Moderna would be distributed to state-run clinics from next week.

Victoria is unlikely to hit its 80 per cent single-dose target on Sunday, as initially projected, meaning the anticipated return of contactless sports, such as golf, tennis and bowls, will likely be delayed until the dosage rate is met.

“We’ve just come off a record week of Victorians being vaccinated,” Mr Foley said. “Let’s all re-double our efforts over this weekend to make sure that we get to that measure as soon as we possibly can.”

The 80 per cent first-dose target is now expected to be met later next week.

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