More positive vaccine news this week as the ABC reports:
As Australians navigate lockdowns, border closures, hotel quarantine and COVID-19 testing queues, the wait for the vaccines that will protect the population is slowly shortening. But before the largest vaccination program in the country’s history can kick off next month, many of the details have to be decided, implemented and communicated to the public.
Last week, the Federal Government outlined its plan to administer the Pfizer vaccine to “first-priority groups” because Australia will get that drug first, but only in a limited supply. Over the weekend, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said most Australians would receive the AstraZeneca drug as part of the Government’s strategy because “we are making it here”.
So, which are you likely to get and what’s the difference anyway?
The Pfizer vaccine
The Pfizer Biotech drug is not yet approved in Australia, but it’s likely to be the first COVID-19 vaccine to clear the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval process. It has a reported efficacy of 95 per cent and Australia has 10 million doses on order.
We know the “first-priority populations” of Australians will receive the Pfizer vaccine in “phase 1a” of the rollout.
This will include:
70,000 quarantine and border workers
100,000 frontline healthcare workers
318,000 aged care and disability care workers
190,000 aged care and disability care residents
From there, the Government plans four further phases of the vaccine rollout, using the AstraZeneca drug to protect most of the population.
The AstraZeneca vaccine
The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in partnership with Oxford University and Australia signed supply orders for the drug months ago. The benefit of this drug is it is being manufactured in Australia by biotechnology company CSL, meaning supply is secured.
The reported efficacy is about 70 per cent and, just as with the Pfizer drug, it will be administered in two doses. The COVID-19 vaccines will be recommended to almost all Australians and will be made available to Australian citizens, permanent residents and most visa holders for free.
Why Australia will use both:
Using the first-available COVID-19 vaccines that are safe makes sense, according to epidemiologist Hassan Vally. Australian health authorities have the most comprehensive data for the Pfizer vaccine and will look at approving that one first.
“It’s important to get the vaccine out there and it makes sense to roll out the first available vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, to vulnerable groups,” Dr Vally from La Trobe University said. And experts said giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to the rest of the population was a good move, as it would be manufactured locally.
Dr Vally said local manufacturing put Australia in a good position.
“In terms of practicalities, it is a huge advantage to have a vaccine that we are able to manufacture onshore, given all the global issues that are likely to occur over the next 12 months,” he said.
Dr Vally said no matter which vaccine people received, the more people who got the jab, the better. Immunologist Kylie Quinn said Australia was fortunate to have two tools in its vaccine toolkit, the Pfizer jab for those most at risk and the AstraZeneca inoculation for the broader community.
“They may not be offered the more effective vaccine, but the AstraZeneca vaccine is still a pretty decent vaccine, and if we all do a good job of taking up the vaccine, then it’s going to provide that broader protection in the community,” she said.
Dr Vally said every Australian who was vaccinated contributed to defeating COVID-19 because that was one person fewer who was likely to get sick.
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