The first 142,000 doses of the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine have now touched down in Australia ahead of a planned vaccine rollout beginning later this month.
These vaccines – which must be kept at around -70°C until shortly before use – arrived Down Under today after beginning their journey in Belgium, and transiting through Singapore, before being loaded onto a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 bound for Sydney Airport.
“For more than 53 years we have connected Australia to the world and throughout that period we have celebrated many firsts, but none more important, or proud as this one,” said Singapore Airlines Regional Vice President South West Pacific, Philip Goh.
“Delivery of Australia’s first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine marks a significant point in Australia’s, and the world’s, fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To ensure the cargo arrived intact, Singapore Airlines – together with DHL Global Forwarding – monitored the shipment en route, including during its transit in toasty Singapore, and on arrival into Sydney.
On Sunday, the city state peaked at 87% humidity with a top of 31°C outside: more than 100°C hotter than the storage temperature of the vaccines.
From Sydney Airport, the shipment passes over to DHL, to reach its final destination by road.
Australia’s vaccine rollout ready for take-off
After the Pfizer-BionTech vials have been checked by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), they’ll start making their way across the country.
The first vaccines are expected to be given early next week, with hotel quarantine staff, those manning Australia’s international borders, and healthcare workers getting priority at first.
Of the 142,000 doses, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that 80,000 will be earmarked as ‘first doses’ of the two-jab vaccine, with 62,000 reserved for use as ‘second doses’.
Within that batch of first doses, 50,000 will go to those priority groups above, with 30,000 being made available to aged care facilities across Australia.
The TGA also expects to make a decision this week about approving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which would largely be manufactured in Melbourne.
Throughout the pandemic, Singapore Airlines has carried a variety of items into Australia as part of the global effort to defeat COVID-19.
Between March and December 2020, the carrier imported over 2,200 tonnes of PPE, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and COVID-19 test kits into Australia from various destinations overseas, on both its passenger and cargo-only flights.