What Australians need to know about the Covid-19 vaccines

Nov 14, 2020
The Australian Government has backed four potential Covid-19 vaccines. Source: Getty.

There’s been lots of talk about a possible Covid-19 vaccine, causing confusion among some people around where the vaccines are coming from, how many are there, and, most importantly, when can we get our hands on them.

In short, there are nine vaccines currently supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is a global partnership to accelerate the development of a vaccine for the virus. The Australian Government has signed on for four of these vaccine programs, taking the nation’s vaccine investment total to more than $3.5 billion.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the National Cabinet’s endorsement for the national vaccination policy, which details how the Covid-19 vaccine will be regulated. According to the policy, once approved by health officials, the vaccine will initially be handed out to three priority groups: people at increased risk of exposure including health and aged care workers, those working in critical jobs and those at an increased risk of contracting the virus.

And although Morrison said he would encourage all Australians to get the jab when it eventually becomes available, the vaccine will not be mandatory.

Experts estimate that some vaccines will be available as early as July next year, granted they pass rigorous assessment and approval processes. Here’s everything you need to know about the four Australian-endorsed potential vaccines for Covid-19.

Pfizer/BioNTech

This vaccine is one of the most promising in development. It’s currently in phase three, the final stage, of its clinical trials and was the very first Covid-19 vaccine to be tested on adolescents with trial participants aged between 12 to 85 years old.

To become available to Australians, all vaccines need to pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) testing and approval processes, and in October, Pfizer became eligible to apply for provisional registration. If it’s successful, the government will get its hands on 10 million doses to be available to Australians from early 2021. These doses are manufactured overseas and would need to be transported to Australia.

University of Queensland/CSL

The Australian Government has put $5 million worth of funding behind this homegrown vaccine program. It’s currently being developed in Broadmeadows Victoria by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) with the pre-clinical research showing it produced a potent protective immune response.

It’s now in phase one of three in its clinical trials, which began in July 2020 in Brisbane and is currently being tested on 120 participants. If successful, the move to larger scale testing in phase two and three is expected to begin in late 2020.

This vaccine is currently being monitored by the TGA and if approved, it’ll provide 51 million doses to Australians that will be available from mid-2021. And as it’s a locally made vaccine, these will be manufactured in Australia to be disseminated nationwide.

University of Oxford/AstraZeneca

This vaccine is currently in its third and final stage of clinical trials. It was proved to be safe in its small-scale combined phase one and two trials. Larger combined phase two and three trials are now happening in the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil and South Africa.

The TGA has also allowed this vaccine to be eligible to apply for provisional registration on the national register and if successful, there will be 3.8 million doses delivered to Australia early next year. An additional 30 million doses will be manufactured in Australia from early next year through to September 2021.

Novavax

This vaccine is being manufactured in several locations across Europe and is currently on its third and final stage of clinical trials. Following its first phase, this vaccine generated a strong immune response and had a favourable safety profile in its limited trial participants.

Larger scale phase three trials are currently underway in the UK with additional trials planned to run at the end of this year and into early 2021. Out of all four vaccines Australia is involved in, this vaccine is the only one that mentions being tested on people with HIV and other chronic conditions.

The TGA is monitoring this vaccine as well and if approved, 40 million doses will be supplied to Australia next year, which would be more than enough to cover the entire population. Australia will also have the option to purchase an extra 10 million doses if required.

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