A Singapore Airlines A350 has officially touched down in Australia carrying 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement on Monday by stating that “the eagle has landed”, and the first COVID-19 vaccines were officially delivered to Australian shores “shortly after midday”.
While the government has kept many of the details regarding the delivery of the vaccine tightly under wraps, a Singapore Airlines A350-941, registration 9V-SHB, landed at Sydney Airport from Singapore at 12:08pm on Monday as flight SQ231.
Footage of the vaccines being unloaded from the cargo hold of the SIA Airbus A350-900 was recorded and subsequently posted to the 9News Australia Twitter account.
An Airbus A350-900 has around 16 tonnes of storage capacity within its cargo hold, in the belly of the passenger aircraft.
Singapore Airlines later confirmed that it had successfully transported the first batch of COVID vaccines to Australia from Belgium via its Singapore hub.
The airline reportedly worked with logistics company DHL Global Forwarding to ensure the cargo arrived safely, with no interruptions in the cold chain.
The vaccines are currently being moved to a secure, temperature-controlled facility in Sydney, before DHL begins its task of nationwide distribution.
Singapore Airlines regional vice president south-west Pacific, Philip Goh, welcomed the first vaccine delivery and stated it marked a “significant point in Australia’s, and the world’s, fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Goh noted that the total journey to transport the vaccines from Belgium to Australia took around 40 hours to complete.
According to Minister Hunt, approximately 60,000 Australians will have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine by the end of February, with first priority being given to frontline workers, including those in healthcare, aged care, and hotel quarantine facilities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was on track for the first Australians to start receiving the vaccine from 22 February.
“The vaccine has landed and we’re stepping up our fight against the pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.
“Once the final safety checks are completed we can start rolling out the vaccine to our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers.
The precious cargo will be taken to a mystery Sydney location for storage before being rolled out across the country.
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) February 15, 2021
“The hard work of Australians has meant we’re in an enviable position in our fight against the pandemic so we’ve been able to take the time to properly assess our vaccine decisions and give our world-class regulator the time they need to review the safety of the jabs.
“While we’re taking the time to get the rollout right, I am confident all Australians who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive a vaccine this year.”
The Australian government confirmed in November 2020 that it had secured over 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.
Last month, Australia’s medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), officially approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia. It was the first vaccine to receive TGA approval.
The TGA said it conducted a thorough and independent review of Pfizer’s submission, before ultimately determining that the vaccine met the high safety, efficacy and quality standards required for approval.
Part of today’s shipment will be set aside to be studied by the TGA, according to the Prime Minister’s office.