SYDNEY — The U.K. will send 4 million Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine doses to Australia this month, while Canberra will return the same overall number by the end of the year under a deal announced overnight.
“The plane [carrying the first tranche of doses] is on the tarmac now,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference announcing the deal earlier today. “Those doses will be coming over the course of the next few weeks, which will see us double the Pfizer doses that we have during September.”
Morrison concluded his press conference with a nod to his British counterpart Boris Johnson: “Thanks Boris, I owe you a beer, cheers,” he said.
The deal comes as Australia battles an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, with 21,481 active cases nationwide, 8,473 of them acquired in the past seven days. It will enable supply to be returned to the U.K. later in the year, in time for any potential wide-scale booster program or the expansion of vaccines to more teenagers, pending advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, the U.K. said in a statement.
The U.K.’s Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement: “Our agreement with Australia will share doses at the optimum time to bolster both our countries’ vaccination programmes.”
Australia has fully vaccinated 36.4 percent of its adult population, while in the U.K. 79.2 percent of adults are double-jabbed.