Some Australian doctors are seeking to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, saying it may not be effective in establishing herd immunity.
This comes as New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, recorded one local coronavirus case on Wednesday, having apparently seen off another cluster of infections in Sydney.
The opposition to the AstraZeneca vaccine throws a shadow over Australia’s immunisation plans, as it is the focus of the government’s strategy, and 53 million doses are already in place.
Professor Stephen Turner, president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, is concerned that some tests of the AstraZeneca vaccine appear to show it to be less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna shots.
“The question is whether this particular jab will be able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here,” Turner told Reuters.
He believes that the government must aim to get more of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
Neither AstraZeneca nor Pfizer have yet received approval from the country’s drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), but Australia already has 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine ready to go.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) the AstraZeneca jab was “effective, safe and of high quality”.
“The great advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it’s being made here in Australia,” Kelly said. “It will be available as soon as the TGA gives its tick, which we expect will be in February.”
He said Australia will have more data by February as well as “real-world information” coming from London, which has already rolled out the vaccine.
Australia has been more successful than many other countries in managing the pandemic, with total infections in the country of 25 million people under 30,000 with less than 1,000 deaths.