Australia will begin its first coronavirus vaccinations from Monday in about 240 aged care homes across more than 190 locations around the country.
The rollout will begin with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine due to join the rollout from early March.
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said phase 1a of the vaccine rollout would include three priority groups, including aged care and disability residents and staff, quarantine and border workers, and frontline health workers.
“Our frontline border and quarantine workers, and people living and working in residential aged and disability care facilities will be the first to receive their vaccines,” he said.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said it was essential the rollout was done both quickly and safely.
“This is a really, really exciting time. We are about to start the single biggest, and most complex, vaccination task in the history of this nation.
“We know there will be bumps in the road as we commence this task, unanticipated problems which we will solve together with our partners.”
The government has established an initial group of 16 Pfizer vaccination hubs across the country, with additional settings such as GP clinics and community pharmacies added to the list as the number of vaccines grow.
The full list of vaccination locations can be found at the Department of Health’s website.
Murphy also welcomed the news Australia had returned on Thursday to zero community transmission, saying it came at an ideal time.
“It’s important to recognise we have no community transmission at the moment,” he says.
“We have several weeks to safely vaccinate our aged care facilities, and that’s what we are planning to do. If we had an outbreak we might change the schedule, but there is no impending serious risk at the moment which is a great position to be in.”
It comes as Victoria recorded its second consecutive day of zero locally acquired coronavirus cases, as the state emerges from its snap lockdown.
There were 30,000 tests recorded on Wednesday.
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said that 15 of the 19 Covid cases associated with the most recent outbreak have had their infection genomically sequenced and linked to the Holiday Inn, as authorities suspected, with the results for the remaining four due soon.
He also added that authorities were not certain the latest cluster was completely over, warning that more cases could potentially emerge in the coming days.
“We do not rule those out but if we do see those, it is likely to be in the personal close contacts of family members, of associated households who have been isolated and quarantining for some substantial period now.”
Victoria’s testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, confirmed there were still 59 household and primary close contacts that authorities were still working with on this outbreak.
“There are around 1,341 primary close contacts linked to the various exposure sides that we spoke about over the last week or so and over 2,000 others linked either to the Holiday Inn as workers.”
Weimar also confirmed that authorities would continue supporting the 3,400 people still in quarantine.
The state emerged from lockdown on Thursday morning, although some restrictions remain, such as mandatory masks where people cannot socially distance, only five visitors allowed at each household, and density limits returning to pre-snap lockdown.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the lifting of restrictions, urging Victoria to “get back to work”.
“With Labour Day weekend just two-and-a-half weeks away and Easter just six weeks away, we urge all Victorians to get out there and support as many businesses as you can: if you’re in a position to do so, dine out, get takeaway, buy gifts, book a mini break or experience. It all counts.”
The lifting of the lockdown also means South Australia will open its borders to regional Victoria from Thursday.
Restrictions with greater Melbourne will remain until there is no community transmission for 14 days.
On Thursday New South Wales recorded its 32nd consecutive day with no local cases, with just over 20,000 tests recorded on Wednesday.
The state has also eased restrictions on arrivals from Victoria, with travellers no longer needing to isolate.