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Why scientists are calling for Australia to reconsider planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout

3AW Breakfast + Mornings
Article image for Why scientists are calling for Australia to reconsider planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Some scientists are calling on the federal government to pause its planned rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, due to concerns over its efficacy.

Australia has already ordered more than 53 million doses of the jab, with the vaccine rollout expected to begin next month.

But the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology says it’s unwise to rely so heavily on the AstraZenica vaccine in the long-term.

President of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, Professor Stephen Turner, says the jab is unlikely to provide herd immunity.

“I think given the effectiveness that the other synthetic vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine … and Moderna are showing clinically, they certainly should be top priority in terms of deployment,” he told Stephen Quartermain and Emily Power, filling in for Ross and Russel.

The AstraZeneca jab has been found to be 62 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 when given in recommended doses.

Meanwhile, trials suggest the drugs from Pfizer and Moderna are about 95 per cent effective.

But Professor Turner says that doesn’t mean the AstraZeneca vaccine can’t be useful.

“The issue really is … the logistics of being able to get our hands on the vaccine,” he said.

“There is an advantage to the AstraZeneca vaccine because it can be manufactured here.”

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Infectious diseases physician, Professor Peter Collignon, says it’s important a vaccine is rolled out before winter.

“We need whatever we’ve got to get the maximum protection for the vulnerable before winter,” he told Tony Jones, filling in for Neil Mitchell.

“Those over the age of 70, we need vaccinated before winter.”

Even if the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at -70 degrees, were transported to Australia, it’s possible that it may be inactive on arrival.

“In Bavaria, my understanding is in one batch the cold chain wasn’t kept … and so 10 per cent of their vaccine didn’t get delivered,” Professor Collignon said.

“If you’ve got such a tight cold chain in the practical reality of the real world, rather than a very controlled drug trial, you may not get 90 per cent efficacy.”

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