Keeping the references going, the vaccine news – especially this week – has been spreading like wildfire.
But the two announcements, day after day, are critical for the upcoming vaccine rollout in Australia – what the government has called the biggest logistical exercise the country has ever seen.
This means that the main vaccine to be launched in Australia – and produced by biomedical company CSL at 50 million doses at 1 million doses a week from the end of March – has been approved and is ready for use.
It also means Australians now have certainties about a few things:
The known list, now, is small.
The list of unknowns is much bigger.
And the least known thing is about continuing Pfizer vaccine shipments to the country.
Currently, as the world is scrambling to get a vaccine, Governments do not know – or do not disclose – exactly when a second shipment will land, or a third or a fourth.
And also not knowing how much Pfizer vaccine it will receive at the start of the shipment.
A spokesman for the Health Minister told the ABC: “Our initial weekly allocation [of Pfizer vaccine] is 142,000 for the week, with further doses to be confirmed each week. “
“The Commonwealth continues to collaborate with Pfizer and states and territories on the delivery schedule for the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”
Earlier this week, the Health Minister confirmed Australia was expecting a minimum of 1 million doses a month starting April, as part of an initial agreement with Pfizer for 10 million doses.
The time for “further agreement” for an additional 10 million doses over 2021 “will be confirmed”.
According to former Secretary of the Health Department Stephen Duckett, the pressure is now on the Government because they have “talked about it” into getting vaccinated immediately.
“I’m on the side of the Government and I don’t think we need to push for vaccination earlier, given our global position,” said Professor Duckett.
“But the problem is they have announced this deadline and the public naturally says, ‘You said you were going to start now – so how are you going to do it?'”
Where do I go to get the injection?
Although the Government revealed some details earlier this monthAnother thing that is not known is exactly where most Australians need to go to get the vaccine when launches increase in late March and April – and when they will be notified, it is their turn.
The ABC understands doctors expressing interest in being involved in phase 1b of the vaccine rollout – which will focus on the AstraZeneca vaccine – will be notified if needed next week.
Professor Duckett said deliveries “are a big deal” and the Government will need a minimum of 1 million injections a week to get close to the vaccination deadline for all Australians who want it by October.
“Say, for example, you took it [CSL] “With their word for making 1 million doses a week, you still have a problem putting it in people’s arms,” he said.
“I hear a lot of doctors have put up their hands, and that’s great, but a lot of them say ‘I’d rather vaccinate my patients’ [so] they won’t vaccinate many people.
“It’s great that they do that, but they won’t be able to do many people quickly.”
As part of the process, patients should be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the injection.
Professor Duckett said the “second wave” of GP clinics will likely be small in scale “but again they may not have the space to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly”.
And a third group is doctors who set up real vaccine super clinics, like those set up in their car parks, for example.
“But out of three lots, if the majority of doctors only want to vaccinate their own patients, then you won’t hit a million a week.
“The logistics are enormous.”
Pharmacists will also be involved in phase 2a of the launch which is marked to start from May. The process of expressing interest is complete this week.
How about the variant?
The issue of whether the COVID-19 vaccine can adapt to viral variants has resurfaced this week.
Preliminary evidence suggests it is not “unknown”, with experts saying new variants are likely to be covered by existing COVID-19 vaccines – particularly mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer – although experts say some of the mutations may slightly dull the vaccine’s effectiveness.
According to Tony Cunningham of the Westmead Institute, a vaccinator over 40 years, the studies that come out each week are “a little different” about what they find.
“We don’t have good enough data yet,” said Professor Cunningham.
“But if I were to speak to the general public about this issue, I would say there are several strains circulating that are at risk at the current vaccine launch, yes.
“And they may need to be addressed but a new generation of vaccines or boosters to deal with these strains if they become widespread.
“But we don’t have to worry, scientists and vaccine makers say they can do this.”
Professor Cunningham said so far Australia had been protected from multiple variants by its hotel quarantine system.
“And as long as we bottle the variant it must be okay,” he said.
The University of Oxford is working on a modified version of the AstraZeneca vaccine to account for the South African strain, with a newer version expected in the coming months.
Australia’s first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine will land this week with the Federal Government acknowledging that distributing it nationwide is not a perfect exercise.
The main point:
The Health Minister said the dose would arrive sometime this week
He did not give an exact date, saying he needed to be careful about the details in a “very competitive global world”
The deputy prime minister said launching the vaccine would not be an easy task
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the first batch of Belgian-made Pfizer jabs “are scheduled to land in Australia before the weekend, if not earlier”.
However, he remained tight-lipped about the exact date of arrival due to concerns that it could harm the product.
“Because this is the most valuable cargo, we are careful with our details in a very competitive global world,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Once the bottles reach Australian shores, they will be inspected by the Therapeutic Items Administration.
But Hunt said the government remains on track to start giving vaccines to vulnerable and priority groups before the end of February.
“The TGA will ensure that the numbers are correct, that they specifically have no in-flight actions that compromise quality, such as dropping temperatures,” he said.
“They will look to see that all the vials are intact and the seals are not broken and they will also do batch testing as part of that, some of which has already been done in Europe and additional testing will be carried out here in Australia.
“Our number one priority is safety, safety, safety.”
Australia has an agreement with Pfizer to provide a total of 3 million doses during April, May and June.
Mr Hunt said deliveries this week were expected to contain 80,000 doses.
“I am very optimistic that we can do better than that,” he said.
“But as is the case with masks and test kits, I’m not going to count all of these until they are really in hand, until they are secured and until they have been tested and counted.”
Deputy PM says distribution ‘won’t go well’
While visiting DHL’s cold chain logistics facility, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the nation would embark on “one of the greatest logistics tasks Australia has ever undertaken”.
“It will not be easy, it will not go smoothly,” he said.
“There will be criticism along the way, but we will do what we can to make sure it is available as quickly as possible.”
DHL is one of two companies tasked with transporting vials to hospitals, GP clinics and pharmacies across the country.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored in freezing cold temperatures between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius.
DHL Supply Chain CEO Saul Resnick said that the company acquired new freezers, each capable of holding 140,000 doses, for the specific purpose of storing Pfizer jabs.
“We can say with great confidence that what comes will be stored in an absolutely controlled and maintained environment,” he said.
“The Australian public need not be afraid about products that are outside this environment.
“When the product arrives, it will immediately be distributed to places of use.
“Our responsibility is to ensure that once the vials are in our care and custody, we safeguard them not only from a theft and loss perspective, but also damage, compliance; all aspects to ensure that throughout the life cycle until Australian residents are vaccinated, products are cared for.”
With the launch of vaccines around the world, many of us are starting to believe that the nightmare that has become the Covid-19 pandemic is coming to an end.
However, while steps are being taken around the world that will eventually restore a sense of normality, key questions remain unanswered.
How long will it take before life returns to normal? A life that doesn’t involve masks, social distancing, being told to sit in pubs, and Zoom’s parties.
While it is possible that there will be some invisible events that could support or hinder the path to pre-pandemic life, the new calculations roughly predict when they could happen.
Bloomberg has built the largest database of Covid-19 vaccines delivered worldwide and, according to their calculations, it will take seven years.
Crunchers in the publication say it will take that long to reach the top US doctor Anthony Fauci’s estimate for the herd immunity threshold of 75 percent of inoculated people globally.
Vaccination numbers are already fluctuating wildly from country to country, and some countries are expected to reach that threshold sooner.
While we haven’t started the process here in New Zealand yet, some countries, like Israel for example, may reach the threshold in the near future.
The middle eastern country is on track to see 75 percent coverage in the fall but Portugal will need four years, China seven years and Latvia nearly nine years to achieve herd immunity if vaccine distribution doesn’t change. The US is expected to achieve herd immunity in time for New Year’s 2022.
Vaccination rates are likely to change, but there are also possible disruptions – such as supply issues and whether the vaccine is effective against variants such as those emerging in South Africa and Brazil.
Bloomberg experts described the calculations as “volatile” – with global vaccine rollouts already marred by supply disruptions. The disruption occurs with only a third of countries in the world starting vaccine campaigns.
However, the publication notes vaccination rates are expected to increase worldwide as more injections become available – they point to major vaccine manufacturing centers in India and Mexico, and say production has only just begun.
The Bloomberg calculator is based on two doses for the full vaccination and will adjust once a vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, which requires only one dose, is available. Even though the vaccine hasn’t been approved for children, Bloomberg included it in their calculations because they too can become infected with, and pass on, the virus.
The calculations also do not take into account any levels of natural immunity experienced by those previously exposed to the virus – experts believe some immunity is offered after infection but it is not clear how long it lasts.
Adding to the uncertainty are the differences between developing and developed countries in terms of vaccine access and launches.
It is important to look at the global picture because a pandemic is a global event by definition, so if a country does not achieve herd immunity, the virus can survive there as well as be exported to other countries, risking an international revival.
Concerned about what has happened so far, the World Health Organization last night issued a request for vaccine makers to dramatically increase production.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that while the number of Covid-19 vaccines given (115 million) has now surpassed the number of infections worldwide (104 million), more than three-quarters of injections have been distributed to just 10 rich people. country.
“Nearly 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, have not given a single dose,” complained Tedros.
“Unless we suppress the virus everywhere, we can end up back at square one,” said the WHO chief, calling on vaccine manufacturers to implement “a massive increase in production.”
Even in developed regions like Europe – the worst affected region in the world – there are still problems.
There have been 760,000 deaths related to the virus in Europe. The slow rollout of the vaccine has sparked public outrage and plunged the bloc leadership into crisis.
EU member states need to work more closely with drug companies to increase the speed of inoculation, said the WHO regional head.
“We need to join forces to speed up vaccinations,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview.
“Otherwise, competing pharmaceutical companies (must) make efforts to increase production capacity drastically … that’s what we need.” Despite the troubled start to the vaccine launch in the 27-nation block, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron defended the Brussels strategy.
“I fully support the European approach,” Macron said at an online press conference after talks with Merkel. “What would people say if countries like France and Germany were competing with each other on vaccines?” “It will be messy, and counter productive,” he said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins stated last November that when a vaccine is approved, New Zealand will be “ahead of the line” to get it.
Fast forward three months. Nine vaccines have been approved globally. Some countries that have handled pandemics badly, such as the UK, have vaccinated millions of people.
Israel led the attack. There, nearly half the population has received the first dose of the vaccine. So what happened? Why does New Zealand appear to be lagging behind most developed countries when, in a sense, we are the pets of the Covid-19 response?
Newsroom.co.nz political reporter Marc Daalder says that while other countries have streamlined – or even bypassed – their usual processes for testing drugs, New Zealand’s strong performance in eliminating the virus means we can take the time to ensure vaccines are safe. .
“In New Zealand, we are in a special situation. We don’t have to give emergency consent. We can take a step back and look at all the evidence before we make a decision whether this vaccine is safe and effective enough. This is not a foregone conclusion … and it shows that we do our own homework, and don’t depend on other countries to do it for us. “
Daalder points out that New Zealand is in a unique position, and we can wait while MedSafe goes through the vaccine approval process for use.
“Nobody dies if we wait. Whereas in other countries, even though the vaccines are not safe, they can give authorization because it will save more lives on the internet, “he said.
There is also a moral imperative to waiting, Daalder advises: the whole world wants to get a vaccine for Covid. But, simply put, other countries need it more than New Zealand at this point.
“[The] the last time someone died of Covid in New Zealand, was in September. In many other countries, the last time someone died was in the last 24 hours, or the last hour, or the last few minutes. Something to think about. I’m not making an argument one way or another … but there has to be a conversation around it.
“There should be no assumption that we deserve to be at the front of the line – that we did our part, we eliminated Covid-19, and now we deserve the economic benefits of it.
“[That] maybe right. But people are dying. Other countries need it more, and frankly, we don’t really need it at all, right now. We owe it to the whole world to talk about it. “
Last week, Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins set a timeline for what process the Covid-19 vaccine must go through in order for it to be used in New Zealand; when the first vaccine will be given; and when the mass vaccination program will be launched.
Pfizer / BioNTech will be the first to launch. It could be tested by MedSafe earlier this week, and used to immunize border security personnel in early March. Mass vaccination for the wider community is expected to start in the second half of this year.