Australia's CMO defends the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Australia may face a setback with it its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan with experts suggesting one jab may not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity.

Australia's CMO defends the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has defended the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine as he conceded he would not be trying to convince anti-vaxxers of its benefits.

Professor Kelly said Australians "have been great at taking up the offers of vaccination", both for children and the wider population.

"We know that confidence is absolutely key to that," Professor Kelly said.

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"There are some people that just don't believe in vaccination… we can't convince them.

"We know that the majority of Australians are in favour of vaccination generally and our surveys that we've done in relation to the COVID vaccine have been very positive in that regard."

Mr Kelly said the "trump card" in Australia's selection of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is that it can be made on shore.

"The choice is not whether one is better than the other," Professor Kelly said.

"It's which one is available to give the maximum roll-out of vaccine to save lives and to protect lives this year. The answer to that is the one we can make here."

Mr Kelly said he is "concerned" debate over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine could undermine public trust in the country's vaccination plan.

Australia's CMO 'concerned' by COVID-19 vaccine controversy

His comments come in response to concerns from some Australian medical experts suggesting the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity.

The Australia and New Zealand Society for Immunology says, based on current evidence, the AstraZeneca vaccine shouldn't be relied on for controlling the virus in Australia.

There are no questions about the safety of the vaccine.

Mr Kelly said concerns about the ability of the drug to create herd immunity was not justified at this stage of the process, and Australians should be guided by medical research findings from the TGA.

"Once controversy is opened up and people make comments based on interim results from trial that was published a month ago … of course people will be wondering whether it's the right decision," Mr Kelly told Today.

"Long- standing advice that stood us in good stead on vaccines. They are the ones that advised us all along."

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Phase three clinical trials show the AstraZeneca is around 62 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

Mr Kelly urged people not to fixate on the singular finding, pointing out that some groups involved in the AstraZeneca trail recorded up to 90 per cent effectiveness.

"We'll have much more information than a five or six page article published in the Lancet once the TGA makes decision," he said.

"Once they made that decision we'll be guided by it. Minimum, it is an effective vaccine, it definitely exceeds the World Health Organisation's goal of over 50 per cent effectiveness."

Infectious diseases and general physician at Alfred Health, Associate Professor Michelle Ananda-Rajah, this morning told Today some experts are concerned the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be the most efficient option.

"The issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine is that we are relying heavily on this vaccine to immunise the population so the vast majority of Australian population will be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine," she said.

"Herd immunity is really important ... it stops the virus from circulating and helps us return as normal a life as possible and the issue here is that we think that that target number should be around 70 or 80 per cent at least."

The Pfizer jab - currently being rolled out in the United Sates and the UK - is considered more than 90 per cent effective and thus more likely to achieve a her immunity result.

Finals results for the AstraZeneca trial are expected towards the end of this month or early February however Assoc. Prof. Ananda-Rajah said it seems "incredibly unlikely" those results will vary significantly.

"I want to make that absolutely clear, we have always maintained a vaccine is our strategy out of this. Like oxygen, when you're offered a vaccine, take the vaccine. It is incredibly important," she said.

"This is about finessing up our strategy and making sure we deliver for Australia the most effective vaccines."

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Despite this, Associate Prof. Ananda-Rajah said if Australia should aim for the most effective option.

"We have a window of opportunity to get this right and make sure we roll out the most effective vaccines for Australians. Otherwise we're potentially living with rolling epidemics and ongoing outbreaks and restrictions and that is not the expectation of the community."

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A health care professional prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Australia is on track to distribute the Pfizer vaccine in February, however, there are fewer doses on order compared with the AstraZeneca injection.

Source : 9 News More