The Australian health minister on Wednesday said vaccines to prevent coronavirus are expected by March 2021.

“We are on track to deliver vaccines to Australians, commencing in March of 2021. And that is I think extremely important news,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told a news conference.

He was accompanied by John Skerritt, head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the regulatory body for prescription medicines, vaccines and medical devices.

His remarks come two days after pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech announced their COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective against the novel infection.

He said Australia has signed a deal with Pfizer for 10 million doses of the antigen, and a cold chain (logistics to maintain a product within a specified temperature) of -70 degrees required to store the mRNA vaccine has also been secured.

The minister revealed that agreements have also been reached with Novavax, AstraZeneca and Oxford, University of Queensland CSL, and UN’s COVAX Facility to acquire millions of vaccine shots for the Australian population.

He said the vaccines by AstraZeneca and Pfizer have already been given “provisional determination” — a pre-approval before receiving provisional approval.

“It essentially expedites the process and brings critical medicines or vaccines to Australians at a faster rate than would otherwise be the case but with an absolute premium on safety,” he explained.

Skerritt said the approval will not be given “until we’re confident that they meet the requirements of efficacy and safety.”

“But I’m hoping that all going well, that by, say, the end of January, we’ll be in the position to be able to give the first couple of vaccines an approval,” he said.

Australia has reported 27,671 COVID-19 cases, including 907 deaths, since the outbreak, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University’s running tally.

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