FRIDAY, JULY 30
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the architect behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, has said the messaging around vaccine rollout in Australia could result in “lives lost”, reports th ABC.
It follows months of changing guidance and restrictions in Australia around who should receive the British-developed vaccine amid surging case numbers in NSW.
The vaccine developer has distributed one billion doses of the vaccine in 170 countries around the world.
One of the earliest vaccines to be developed, and used as the backbone of the UK’s ambitious vaccination program, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was hailed a COVID world-beater.
But issues with supply and side-effects around rare blood-clotting events led authorities to temporarily suspend the vaccine in some European countries, before restricting it to certain age groups.
Australia followed suit, limiting its distribution to those over 60 years old before expanding the age bracket to those over 50.
“This has been an absolute nightmare,” Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the ABC.
“With changing of age, recommendations, over the course of the last six months, that’s really, I think, left some people without vaccine when they could have been vaccinated… and that’s a huge risk to our populations around the world if we get that wrong.”
In Australia, where until recently cases numbers had been low, the return of rolling lockdowns and a spreading Delta variant has changed the calculus.
But the developers worry that mixed messaging could impact a successful vaccine take-up.
“I think the problem with that is the messaging that people receive around the vaccination,” Professor Gilbert said.
“Because if you’re telling people at some stage, ‘oh, you shouldn’t have this vaccine, it’s probably not the best thing for you,’ and then you want to change that message and say, ‘no, we changed our mind, it is good,’ I think it makes it difficult for people who are considering whether to get vaccinated and when to get vaccinated.
“It complicates the situation.”
People under the age of 40 in Sydney are now being encouraged to get the vaccine – and no longer must see a GP before doing so.
“If it’s now possible to accelerate vaccination in Australia and save lives by getting people vaccinated quickly then it won’t be the greatest public health disaster the country has ever seen,” Professor Gilbert said.
“But the concern is that if people have received the wrong message and are just too worried about going to get vaccine now, that really could have very long-term effects and we could see a lot of lives lost because of it.”
It comes as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine reached one billion doses released to more than 170 countries across the world.
There are also more than 20 manufacturing sites worldwide – including in Australia.
That’s despite reports of around three million unused AstraZeneca vaccines being stored in Australia.
“It’s a great shame that there are vaccines sitting there not being used,” Professor Gilbert said.
She said the manufacturing facility in Australia was to ensure a ready supply of vaccine, but if it’s not being used it should be handed over to other countries.
“We shouldn’t have vaccines sitting on the shelf,” she said.
“If the doses aren’t going to be used then we need to have an alternative strategy to get those doses out to a different country that will use them.”
*The government is quietly preparing for targeted lockdowns to stretch into 2022, as Australia’s Covid crisis rages on.
According to The Australian, the Doherty Institute has prepared scenarios to be presented to national cabinet today which shows the vaccination rates we need for Australia to start opening up, with Treasury then tasked with figuring out the economic costs of different outcomes.
It has been reported that “Scott Morrison and national cabinet leaders are preparing for targeted lockdowns to run into next year”, backed up by the PM’s own refusal to rule out 2022 lockdowns, stating that “no one can give those guarantees”.
“The virus is unpredictable and it would be irresponsible to do so,” he said.
*Victoria has recorded two new locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Friday.
The state’s health department announced three new local infections about 8.30am, but one case was previously revealed on Thursday.
That case was detected in Gippsland on Thursday, but chief health officer Brett Sutton said they had been in quarantine during their entire infectious period.
The health department also confirmed all of the new local cases were linked to existing outbreaks and all were in isolation for 100 per cent of their infectious period.
*A 17-year-old student has become the latest Queenslander to test positive to Covid-19.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the sole community case of the virus, announced on Friday, was of “extreme concern”.
“This is an unknown, unlinked case,” she said.
The Indooroopilly State High School student fell ill on Thursday and went and got tested.
Her family are now being tested and the school has been closed for 48 hours so contact tracers can get on top of the spread.
Genomic sequencing is yet to determine what strain of the virus she has and how she got it.
At this stage it’s not believed the family have travelled overseas.
*Sydneysiders have woken to their first day of tightened restrictions as the city grapples with an escalating Covid crisis.
NSW had its worst day since the pandemic began on Thursday, recording a staggering 239 new cases with more than 60 of those in the community for their entire infectious period.
The city’s west and southwest continue to cop the brunt of the cases.
As a result, Gladys Berejiklian revealed several new measures that came into force from 12.01am on Friday.
Residents in Fairfield, Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown must now wear a mask any time they step outside their home.
They are also banned from travelling more than 5km from their home.
Ms Berejiklian said the travel ban applies for shopping, exercise and anyone who has formed a singles bubble.
The same rules apply to essential workers who work in any of those local government areas but live in different parts of Sydney, meaning they will take the restrictions home with them.
Ms Berejiklian said while there were eight local government areas of concern, more may be added and some taken off the list as the crisis continues.
*US President Joe Biden has announced that federal workers and onsite contractors will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or wear masks, practice social distancing and submit to regular testing.
The sweeping new guidelines are Mr Biden’s latest effort to spur some reluctant Americans to get vaccinated as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges.
“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say if ‘I’d just got the vaccine,'” Mr Biden said in a sombre address at the White House.
“This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die.”
Government employees who do not show they have been vaccinated will be subject to weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 tests and restrictions on official travel.
“People would much rather roll up their sleeves and get a jab, than undergo weekly testing and universal masking,” Mr Biden said.
“In many ways, this is really not a mandate, it’s giving workers a choice.”
Mr Biden directed the Defense Department to look into adding the COVID-19 shot to its list of required vaccinations for members of the military.
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