By Tony Winterburn • 16 February 2021 • 6:57
Australia medical regulator approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. image: Pixels
Australia medical regulator approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
AUSTRALIA’S medical regulator said it had granted provisional approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, making it the second vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia.
The regulator last month approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use and inoculations for its 25 million population will begin from Feb. 22. The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, John Skerritt, said it had placed no upper age limit on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because it had “no reason to suspect” it won’t be fully effective in older age groups.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, declared the AstraZeneca vaccine was “cleared for liftoff”, just a day after the first batch of 142,000 Pfizer vaccines arrived in Australia for a vaccination program to launch on Monday. The TGA approval advises a second dose to follow 12 weeks after the first AstraZeneca jab, which Skerritt said raises its effectiveness to 82% protection against contracting Covid-19.
Skerritt rejected suggestions the AstraZeneca vaccine materially lagged earlier promises of 90% effectiveness. He said such comparisons were “not particularly relevant” because there was “no difference in the real world” in the degree of protection between 82% and 90%. The Pfizer vaccine prevents up to 95% of people from contracting coronavirus.
The AstraZeneca vaccine displayed “100% efficacy against severe disease, illness and death”, he said. “What is important is to get vaccines into people’s arms. AstraZeneca gives us a vaccine that can be used in major facilities, in primary care through GPs potentially through pharmacy practices.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine will be central to Australia’s rollout both because it does not need to be stored at -70C and it will be domestically produced, ramping up to 1m doses per week by late March.
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