CANBERRA, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Australia's coronavirus vaccine program will begin on Feb. 22, the government has confirmed.
Health Minister Greg Hunt and Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy on Thursday announced that the vaccine rollout will begin in more than 200 aged care facilities in 190 towns across Australia next Monday.
"There will be approximately 240 aged care facilities, if not more, that are vaccinated in week one," Hunt said in a press conference in Canberra.
In addition to aged care residents and staff, border and quarantine workers and frontline healthcare workers will be the first Australians to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which Australia has acquired 20 million doses of, will be the first to be administered in Australia.
Murphy said the rollout would be completed quickly but safely with the government aiming to have the entire population vaccinated by October.
"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," he said.
He said that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was still "considering" whether vaccines would be made mandatory for aged care workers.
Australia recorded zero cases of community transmission of COVID-19 on Thursday but Murphy said that the vaccine strategy could change to respond to outbreaks.
"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," he said.