Sydney, Australia, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- The Australian government expects to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory and free of charge for its 25 million population, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
“I would expect it to be as mandatory as you could possibly make it,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
At a press conference, Morrison added that the government would be “seeking its most widespread application, as we do with all important vaccines,” adding that his administration will cooperate so that countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia also have access to the vaccine.
The government has signed a letter of intent with the British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for Australia to secure the vaccine, which Morrison has described as “one of the most advanced and promising in the world,” that is being developed by Oxford University, if trials prove to be successful.
The would mean the Australian government receives it early and will be able to manufacture it domestically.
Making the official announcement Wednesday, Morrison said that making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory “is an important part of our vaccine strategy.”
Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said at the same press conference that at first, the vaccine would be voluntary.
“There will be some who, for medical reasons, as the PM said, may not be able to take the vaccine, but there will be very strong campaigns to encourage people,” said Kelly, who also stressed that the authorities will make sure that the vaccine, which is expected to be ready for early 2021, “works and is safe.”
Australia, which had reactivated its economy after suppressing the coronavirus, is currently facing a health crisis caused by the outbreak in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, which at the end of June saw its infections skyrocket from 2,200 to about 17,500.
The Victorian government, which has put the 5 million residents of Melbourne into lockdown until Sep. 13 and imposed restriction measures on the rest of the state, reported 216 new cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday, indicating that it has passed the peak of infections.
The state of New South Wales reported seven new cases, amid concerns about a new infection of a security guard at a quarantine center for international arrivals and who also worked in a Sydney market.
The Oceanian country, which was among those that best balanced the health response with the economic response to the COVID-19 crisis, has accumulated some 24,000 cases of COVID-19 and 450 deaths. EFE-EPA