A group of Australian researchers has called on the government to review its Covid-19 immunization strategy over concerns that the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective enough to create flock immunity.
Several immunologists and the opposition Labor Party said on Wednesday that Canberra should seek additional supplies of the BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which test shows they have higher efficiencies – a measure of infection prevention or serious illness – than the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab .
Some health experts are also calling for a “break”
“Until we get more data showing that AstraZeneca is as good as the others, the scientific and medical risk you take is that you will not get herd immunity,” said Andrew Miller, president of the Australian Medical Association in Western Australia. “The political risk is that you get a good vaccine for the rich and a not so good vaccine for the poor”
Dr Miller said Canberra should halt the planned roll-out of Oxford / AstraZeneca jab and source vaccines with the highest efficiency. Because Australia has largely inhibited the virus – unlike the UK or the US – it should wait and find the best vaccines available to build public confidence, he added.
However, the government said the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine would provide vital protection against the virus and there were no plans for a political turnaround.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is effective, safe and high quality,” said Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer. “It will be available as soon as TGA [medicine regulator] gives its tick, which we expect will be in February. ”
Australia’s vaccine strategy suffered a blow last month when a homemade candidate developed by the University of Queensland and CSL was abandoned after several trial participants returned false positives for HIV. However, Canberra had a contingency plan and agreed A $ 3.3 billion. ($ 2.6 billion) Agreements with pharmaceutical companies on alternative vaccines.
Its largest order is at AstraZeneca. The Anglo-Swedish drug manufacturer has agreed to deliver 53m doses of its vaccine, achieving an average effect of 70 percent in trials. It has also ordered 10m doses of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine, which has achieved an efficiency of more than 90 percent and is also expected to be approved by the TGA next month.
Canberra has also agreed to purchase 51m doses of Novavax vaccine, although these are not expected to be available until mid-2021.
Some researchers are concerned about Australia’s dependence on Oxford / AstraZeneca, as the noted experimental data showed that when jab was given as two full doses at least one month apart, its efficacy was only 62 per cent.
“Turning towards the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines looks like a good idea in an ideal situation,” said Stephen Turner, president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Immunology.
He called a review of Canberra’s vaccine strategy appropriate, but warned that there were practical difficulties in rolling out the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine because it must be stored at minus 70 ° C. The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be kept at 2 ° C to 8 ° C, could be a useful tool in the short term to control the virus, Turner said.
The Australasian Virology Society said it did not support a “break” in vaccine rollout. Rather, all data should be analyzed for safety and efficacy by the Australian Drug Regulator before a final decision on the roll-out of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is made.
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The Labor Party said the government should agree on more agreements with the vaccine manufacturers, noting that it had three contracts, while other developed economies had five or six. But it has not required a break in the roll-out of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
Peter Collingon, professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, described calls to stop the rollout as “unrealistic”. He said it was unlikely the government could get enough alternative vaccines this year and it was crucial to get high-risk vaccinated before winter.