The government will begin getting COVID jabs into people’s arms as of Monday, as Pfizer’s jab touched down in Sydney yesterday afternoon.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters the more than 142,000 doses will be subject to security and quality assurance “in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight”.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept between -60 and -90 degrees Celsius.
The government said it would be releasing 80,000 doses from Monday, with 50,000 going to states and territories to be administered to frontline health and quarantine workers, and the other 30,000 will be given to aged and disability care residents and staff.
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Mr Hunt said the states are “magnificently prepared” to receive their allocation of vaccines, which will be determined based on population size.
Australia has secured 10 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which required two doses per person to at its most effective.
Most Aussies however will receive the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a) because it is being manufactured locally in Melbourne, and b) because it doesn’t require strict storage specifications.
But there has been some confusion over the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy; earlier studies showed it to be up to 90 percent effective, but that was due to a ‘dosing mistake’ in one of the early trials.
More recent data shows it to be 62 percent effective with a standard, two-dose schedule. Pfizer’s vaccine, meanwhile, has shown to be 95 percent effective.
“We’d need to vaccinate almost everyone in Australia to achieve herd immunity with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which isn’t feasible,” epidemiologist at the University of Western Australia Zoe Hyde wrote for The Conversation recently.
She argues that the only route to herd immunity in Australia, and an end to the coronavirus in our country, is to utilise several kinds of the jab. This is a “mammoth” task, she says.
“However, we’d perhaps only need to vaccinate 63 percent of the population with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine,” she continues.
“Using the planned combination of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine will still require an unfeasibly large proportion of the population to be vaccinated.”