Australia gears up for inoculations next month

2021-01-28 12:05:01

  A paramedic wearing a protective face mask and shield assists people waiting in line at a coronavirus disease testing clinic at Mona Vale Hospital in the wake of a new outbreak in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney on Dec 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] A piece of "great news" has finally reached Diego Silva, a lecturer in bioethics at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. Silva is referring to an announcement by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, or TGA, on Monday that paves the way for Australia to begin COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of February. The Australian pharmaceutical regulator has approved the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in the country. The Australian government expects to receive some 80,000 doses of the vaccine next month. Australia confirmed 11 new infections on Tuesday, pushing the total to 28,777 with 909 deaths. Abrar Chughtai, lecturer and director of the Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence program at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the regulator will now have to move quickly and approve other vaccines as well, particularly the Oxford one. Chughtai said Australia was already "way behind other countries" on vaccinations. Anne Harris, managing director of Pfizer Australia and New Zealand, told The Australian newspaper that the first delivery of the vaccine to Australia would come within the designated time frame. Pfizer has come under pressure in recent weeks in Europe following delays in delivery of the vaccine. Silva said the next major step will be for the federal and state governments to articulate a plan "clearly and transparently" for the distribution of all vaccines. "As we have seen in other countries, this is easier said than done, hence the importance of being able to articulate to the public the plans for vaccine distribution," he said. Rollout plan "In order to engender the public's trust in the Pfizer and subsequent vaccines, including the trust of healthcare workers, it will be critical for the TGA to describe the system they'll deploy to catch and analyze the negative side effects that will occur as part of Australia's rollout." Professor Bruce Thompson, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne University, said the TGA's announcement is to be welcomed. "Each vaccine will have subtle differences, and it will be important that the appropriate vaccine is targeted to the correct population group," he said. The government has secured more than 50 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.