The Australian Airport Association has called for aviation employees to be prioritised for COVID vaccine when a rollout begins next year.
Chief executive James Goodwin said that while emergency services workers and the vulnerable should be “at the front of the queue”, those in the industry “must not be forgotten”.
“While all Australian airports have strict COVID-19 protocols in place to help prevent the spread, many workers will still need to have direct contact with passengers,” said Goodwin.
“Airports are critical infrastructure and have been keeping international terminals open to help the government bring Australians home from overseas, highlighting the need for aviation workers to be prioritised for the vaccine.
“As vaccines begin to roll out across the globe, the appetite for international travel will increase and aviation workers will need to be protected.
“The government must make it clear whether a vaccine will be mandatory for those wanting to travel overseas and how it will be proven and recognised.
“Compulsory COVID-19 immunisation and a vaccine passport will likely be the key to Australia opening its borders and allowing passengers in without having to quarantine.
“The government could also look at making doses of the vaccine available for people to purchase if they need to go overseas.”
The comments come shortly after the UK became the first major Western country to approve a jab.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab – also purchased by Australia – is now set to begin being rolled out by “early next week”.
Last month its manufacturer’s chief executive Dr Albert Bourla revealed the vaccine was “90 per cent effective” and would “help bring an end to this global health crisis”.
The rollout of the vaccine will be challenging as, unlike some of its competitors, it needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees.
Australia has purchased 10 million doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, which is one of the world’s leading candidates. The country has also agreed to deals with candidates from Novavax, the University of Oxford and the University of Queensland.
Manufacturing of the Pfizer vaccine is already underway and the business said it could supply up to 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion in 2021.
The vaccine works by injecting people with the genetic material needed to grow the “spike protein” of SAR-CoV-2 inside their owns cells, which elicits an immune response.
Phase three trials – the final, mass testing vaccines must go through – began on 27 July and has so far enrolled more than 43,000 participants, most of whom took the required two doses. The trial contained a mix of people from a variety of racial and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
BioNTech was founded by two married German scientists, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci. It originally set out to develop new types of immunotherapy for cancer but has recently concentrated on tackling COVID-19.