More than 500 extra workers will be added to the workforce tasked with vaccinating Australians against COVID-19, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Thursday.
Ahead of the vaccine rollout, which is set to start next month with priority workers, the government has signed contracts with four major health companies for the extra staff.
"This is on top of ... hospital staff, our cornerstone general practices, state vaccination clinics, the work of, in particular, the Commonwealth vaccination clinics and Indigenous or Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, and our pharmacists," Mr Hunt said.
"This is to provide the additional support either with any of those or, in particular, with the outreach to Indigenous communities, aged care centres, and workplaces such as supporting border control and quarantine staff," he explained.
Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS, and Sonic Clinical Services have won the contracts, which could grow to more than 1000 workers, but the government has not yet said how much it will cost.
Mr Hunt said the extra workforce had been recruited after observing the United States' and United Kingdom's vaccine rollouts, and said availability of workers was a critical issue.
This is on top of ... hospital staff, our cornerstone general practices, state vaccination clinics ...Health Minister Greg Hunt
The Australian College of Nursing is also set to be funded to deliver compulsory training for healthcare professionals who will administer the vaccines, covering things like multi-dose vials and cold storage of the Pfizer vaccine.
The training is set to start within the next fortnight, Mr Hunt said.
Responding to reports pharmaceutical company Pfizer expected it would be able to manufacture more doses of its vaccine, Mr Hunt would not say if Australia had been in talks with the company to order extra doses.
"We respectfully never pre-empt any additional purchases, given the highly competitive and commercial global nature of it," Mr Hunt said.
Mr Hunt confirmed the initial plan for the Pfizer vaccine is for 80,000 people to receive the jab each week early in the rollout, growing to 4 million people by the end of March.
"Then subsequently, we expect Pfizer numbers to grow and we expect the numbers of AstraZeneca to commence, and that will be subject to their approval and also the combination of their imports, but also domestic production," he said.