Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those at the front of the vaccination queue on Sunday, receiving a Covid-19 jab ahead of the start of the country’s national roll-out.
Morrison followed soon after an 85-year-old aged care resident who was the the first Australian to receive the vaccine at a televised event in Sydney.
“I’m ready to go, just like the country,” Morrison said when asked by the nurse whether he had any questions.
The country officially begins its major vaccination programme on Monday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt defended the prime minister’s preferential treatment, telling national broadcaster ABC that “it is about confidence.”
“Research shows that people want to see that if we believe it’s safe, then that will give them greater confidence,” Hunt said.
The country’s chief medical officer, chief nursing officer and other healthcare workers were also among a group of 12 Australians vaccinated on Sunday.
While Morrison received the Pfizer vaccine, Hunt said that he and other health department staffers will get the AstraZeneca jab at a later date.
The country’s roll-out is beginning with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – an initial shipment of 142,000 doses landed in Australia last week. It will include the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from early March.
Priority groups for the jab include aged care and disability care residents and workers, front-line healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers.
Australia, a nation of around 25 million people, has recorded around 28,700 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic – significantly a lower per capita rate than most developed countries. The national death toll currently stands at 909.