Top scientists say Australia’s choice of Covid-19 vaccine has a big flaw

Jan 13, 2021
Health experts fear the vaccine may not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity. Source: Getty.

There are calls from scientists to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, due to concerns it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity. The vaccine is one of four supported by the Federal Government, and Australia has secured 50 million doses of it.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday, Professor Stephen Turner, president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, said the AstraZeneca vaccine shouldn’t be relied on for controlling the virus in Australia.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine is not one I would be deploying widely, because of that lower efficacy,” he said. “You cannot rely on it to establish herd immunity. Given we have fantastic vaccines against this, I think it would be wise to not rely on the AstraZeneca vaccine for controlling the virus in Australia. But it could be used as a tool to blunt the effect of Covid-19 until those vaccines could be deployed.”

According to a 7 News report, an interim trial showed that although the jab is safe, it may only 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.

However, infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon says there’s nothing to worry about. “The reality is that the vaccine has up to 70 per cent efficacy – that’s terrific news,” he told breakfast program Sunrise this morning. “Remember that we’re wearing masks that probably have 15-20 per cent efficacy, [so] if you can improve that to 70 per cent by a vaccine that lasts all the time then you’re much better off.”

Collignon went on to say that the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine may not be as good as the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, but it’s important to note that those two other vaccines are going to be in short supply and not readily available. (The Pfizer vaccine, for example, needs to be kept at minus 70C.) “If this vaccine [had been] available for the Melbourne outbreak, then hundreds of lives would have been saved,” Collignon said.

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s chief medical officer, also weighed in on calls for the AstraZeneca jab to be paused, telling Sunrise this morning, “People should be wary about making statements particularly in relation to incomplete data. There will be plenty enough to vaccinate the entire population of Australia twice. One thing is clear from those interim results, this vaccine is very effective against severe disease – just exactly the same as the Pfizer and Moderna data.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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