Victoria has taken delivery of its first batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, with the rollout of the 50,800 doses to start early next week.
It comes as the state on Friday celebrated a week-long run of “doughnut days”, with no locally-acquired coronavirus cases.
The Health Department said the AstraZeneca doses had started arriving at Victoria’s hospital vaccination hubs.
“Victorian health services will start administering this safe, effective and free vaccine from the beginning of next week,” it said in a statement.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton took to Twitter to defend the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said he is expected to get his first jab within a few weeks and would take “whatever vaccine is offered”.
“The Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine are both excellent. Personally, I hope I get the AZ,” he said.
“There’s a lot of commentary about both vaccines and AZ is being framed as the ‘poorer cousin’. But they’re both highly protective, safe, and here already. So whatever I get, I’ll be confident that it protects me, my family and my community.”
While more than 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine destined for Australia have been blocked from leaving Europe by Italy, some doses are already being administered in Australia after a shipment arrived on Sunday.
Some 19,846 people were tested in the 24 hours to Friday morning, bringing the total number of tests processed during the week to almost 80,000.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said testing numbers are likely linked to a common virus – respiratory syncytial virus – doing the rounds among school students.
“Normally kids may not get tested for every sniffle but with all the school policies and everyone’s obviously worried about COVID, a lot of kids are getting tested,” he told 3AW radio.
Professor Cheng was vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine on Friday morning at Alfred Health, where he holds the position of Director of Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology.
He said it was “easy and pretty painless”.
“Last year I was in quarantine having had an exposure on the ward with quite a few of my colleagues, I hope that’s not going to happen again and hopefully, I won’t actually see patients again with COVID,” Professor Cheng told reporters.
Some 2262 shots were administered to frontline health workers and hotel quarantine staff in Victoria on Thursday.
Prof Cheng said almost all Victorian hotel quarantine workers have had their first dose of the vaccine, although it remains unclear when flights will return to the state.
International flights have not arrived in Melbourne since February 13, after hotel quarantine workers contracted the highly infectious UK strain of the virus from returned travellers at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.
The outbreak triggered the state’s five-day, circuit-breaker lockdown.
“I’m not in a position to confirm when flights will begin arriving again in Melbourne,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.
There are five active cases in Victoria, two fewer than Thursday.
Australian Associated Press