Locally made doses of the AstraZeneca virus vaccine clear for rollout

Rebecca GredleyAAP
VideoAustralia has asked the European Commission to review a decision by Italy to block a shipment of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, while stressing on Friday the missing doses would not affect the rollout of Australia's inoculation programme.

Australian-made doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine are weeks away from being available.

Elderly Australians will be the priority when the vaccines are ready from March 22 at general practices.

Health Department boss Brendan Murphy says the vaccinations will eventually be available at thousands of GP clinics across Australia.

Arrangements with GPs are still being finalised.

"People can go to get their vaccines as close to their home as possible," he told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

"This is again a huge logistical exercise."

More than 71,000 people have now been vaccinated, including 20,000 aged care residents.

AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses from overseas are being given to frontline health and hotel quarantine workers, as well as aged and disability care residents and staff.

The federal government has put more than $6 billion towards Australia's coronavirus vaccine rollout, with contracts for more than 150 million doses in total.

One-third of those will be made by pharmaceutical giant CSL in Victoria.

As the vaccine rollout continues, more than 40,000 Australians are overseas trying to return.

The international border has been closed to tourists for almost a year, with strict weekly limits on Australian arrivals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed at a national cabinet meeting on Friday to expand a Northern Territory quarantine facility so more people can return.

The decision will see the Howard Springs facility near Darwin house 2000 people a fortnight in the second half of the year.

The facility is housing 850 per fortnight for mandatory quarantine, with authorities waiting for the cyclone season to pass before increasing numbers.

The ramp up will begin from late April, pending upgrades to the facility.

Other states won't change their arrival numbers until they are reviewed on April 30.

NSW is quarantining more than 3000 people a week, Queensland and Western Australia have 1000 arrivals and South Australia 530.

Victoria is expected to make decision soon on whether it will allow international flights to land in Melbourne.

SA is interested in trying out a program where Pacific agriculture workers quarantine at their home countries, allowing them to be ready to work upon entering Australia.

Mr Morrison said other states were waiting for more details of the pilot.

The nation's leaders will hold their next national cabinet meeting on April 9.

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