Modern Australian

Should Australians be worried about waiting for a COVID vaccine when the UK has just approved Pfizer's?

  • Written by Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus of Health Policy and Management, York University, Emergency Physician at University Health Network, Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Should Australians be worried about waiting for a COVID vaccine when the UK has just approved Pfizer's?

The news that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has gained emergency approval in the United Kingdom and may be distributed to selected high-risk groups as early as next week is welcome.

Headlines also suggest people in the United States and some other European countries could start being vaccinated before the end of the year.

For instance, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee is set to discuss the Pfizer vaccine on December 10 with a subsequent decision within a few weeks. And following the UK approval, there are reports the White House is putting pressure on the FDA to move faster.

However, Australia is set to wait until March for priority groups to be vaccinated, according to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. So why do Australians have to wait three months? And is that a worry?

What just happened?

According to Australia’s own drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Adminstration (TGA), the UK has provided an “emergency use” authorisation for the Pfizer vaccine, rather than going through the usual approval process. This emergency approval is temporary and is for a limited number of specific batches of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the TGA says it continues to assess the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine as that information is submitted, and is working with regulators around the world to discuss vaccine development.

Hunt said that despite the Pfizer news in the UK, Australia’s plans have not changed:

Our advice remains that the timeline for a decision on approval is expected by the end of January 2021, and our planning is for first vaccine delivery in March 2021.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine has just been approved: here's what the next few months will look like

Why the wait?

One reason Australia might be able to afford to wait is that we are not facing the same acute public health emergency as the US, UK and some European countries.

The US is recording almost 200,000 new cases a day, and the UK more than 10,000. Here in Australia, there have only been about 28,000 people infected since March. There are currently hardly any cases of community transmission and since the end of October only one person has died.

Read more: How to read results from COVID vaccine trials like a pro

There are also differences in how drug regulators around the world assess drug safety and efficacy.

In usual times, the TGA is about 120 days slower in approving drugs than the FDA. However, most studies show that there have been more safety problems with drugs fast-tracked by the FDA compared with drugs approved via its usual regulatory process.

The TGA is planning to use its provisional approval pathway which should speed up the process, but by how much is still a guess.

How fast is too fast? This is also unclear. The European Medicines Agency has criticised the UK’s quick emergency approval and said its own procedure relies on more evidence and checks.

There are many stages ahead

Regardless of the timing of regulatory approval, COVID vaccines still need to be made (and depending on the vaccine, imported), then distributed.

While all eyes are on the Pfizer vaccine at the moment, this is one of four for which the Australian government has agreements in place, should they prove safe and effective. Some of these vaccines are still in clinical trials.

Australia has also signed up for a shot at several other vaccines as part of the World Health Organization-backed COVAX agreement, should these prove safe and effective. Again, many of these are still in clinical trials.

Read more: Australia's just signed up for a shot at 9 COVID-19 vaccines. Here's what to expect

Finally, people still need to be willing to be vaccinated. An analysis of the Facebook page of the Australian Vaccination Risks Network, one of the country’s most prominent anti-vaccination groups, shows that since the start of the pandemic its page has attracted 36,962 likes and 32,350 comments; its posts have been shared 29,429 times.

In the meantime (and even for some time after vaccination), we will still need to wear masks when appropriate, physically distance and wash our hands. No vaccine will end the pandemic instantly.

So, should Australians be worried about the delay?

We don’t yet have long-term information about how long immunity will last and how common or serious any side-effects might be. There simply hasn’t been enough time. This might be less important in an emergency situation, but Australia is no longer in an emergency.

Many of us can’t wait to open up to the world and it’s hard to remain patient. But Melburnians, with their second lockdown, have taught us a lot about patience this year.

Perhaps we owe it to them to do our bit for the health of all Australians, accepting that time is a necessary part of good decision-making and planning.

And that involves waiting for a safe and effective vaccine to help us return to something resembling normal life.

Read more: What will Australia's COVID vaccination program look like? 4 key questions answered

Authors: Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus of Health Policy and Management, York University, Emergency Physician at University Health Network, Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Read more https://theconversation.com/should-australians-be-worried-about-waiting-for-a-covid-vaccine-when-the-uk-has-just-approved-pfizers-151287

NEWS

Everything You Need to Know about 5G Technology

Smartphone users today want faster data speeds, accompanied by more accessible services. 5G, the Next Generation of wireless networks claims to extend the same and much more. 5G allows users...

As Joe Biden prepares to become president, the US still reels from the deadly consequences of 'alternative facts'

Every four years on January 20, the US exercises a key tenant of democratic government: the peaceful transfer of power. This year, the scene looks a bit different.If the last...

Forget about the trade spat – coal is passé in much of China, and that's a bigger problem for Australia

Greg Baker/APAustralian coal exports to China plummeted last year. While this is due in part to recent trade tensions between Australia and China, our research suggests coal plant closures are...

Morrison government drops the ball on banking reform

Political pressure forced the federal government in 2017 – when Scott Morrison was treasurer – to call the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services sector.Commissioner...

The Rise and Fall of Saint George shows the transformative power of music

Bianca De Marchi/Sydney FestivalThe Rise and Fall of Saint George is a story about place, belonging and community that taps into universal tensions of identity and faith in multicultural societies...

why people can hold political views that disadvantage their own sex

The views of women and men can differ on important gendered issues such as abortion, gender equity and government spending priorities. Surprisingly, however, average differences in sex on this front...

is it safe for kids to go back to school? And what about the new mutant strain?

A year ago, in late January 2020, Australia reported its first cases of COVID-19. Since then, we have seen almost 29,000 confirmed cases and 909 deaths. As cases climbed in...

Not feeling motivated to tackle those sneaky COVID kilos? Try these 4 healthy eating tips instead

ShutterstockIn Australia and around the world, research is showing changes in body weight, cooking, eating and drinking patterns associated with COVID lockdowns.Some changes have been positive, such as people cooking...

The Conversation's submission to the Australian Senate Inquiry into the News Media Bargaining Code

BongkarnGraphic/ShutterstockOn 10 December 2020, the Australian Senate established an inquiry into a government bill proposing a ‘mandatory bargaining code’ between news media organisations and digital platforms including Google and Facebook...

Trumpism doesn't end with Trump — NZ needs to take a firmer stand against a global threat to democracy

America is currently experiencing its worst political and constitutional crisis since the civil war when the very survival of Abraham Lincoln’s government “of, by and for the people” was at...

older, underinsured and overexposed to cyclones, storms and disasters

News of storms battering parts of Queensland and the threat posed by Cyclone Kimi reminded me of a recent experience I’d had.A few months after Cyclone Marcus unleashed havoc on...

The economy can't guarantee a job. It can guarantee a liveable income for other work

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Australia in March 2020, the Morrison government took bold and imaginative action. The most notable examples were its income support programs – JobKeeper, paying a...



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion













Popular articles from Modern Australian

Importance of Texture and Layering in Interior Design3 Ways Your Drains Become Blocked 5 Reasons for No Power at HomeHow Is Tequila Made?Why You Should Enlist The Services Of A Property StylistTop Luxury Resorts For A Restorative Staycation In AustraliaUnderstanding Employee Car Allowance Rates in Australia7 Bucket-List Worthy Experiences in DubaiThe Effects of Pollen Throughout the Year What Qualifications Are Required to Work as a Chef in Australia?How You Can Create A Café With A Shipping ContainerA Few Great Uses For Laundry DetergentHow To Make Living With Housemates SimplerGreat Tips For Buying Flowers For Valentine’s Day Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Becomes The Fastest Sports Car