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Around the world, roughly 200 coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are being developed. More than 40 of these are now being trialled on humans. Australia is currently focussing on manufacturing the British-developed AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. Fifty million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine are being developed under license in Melbourne, with the first batch expected to be ready by Australia Day (26 January 2021). This means a rollout could potentially begin as early as February 2021, ahead of the original March 2021 plan.
The vaccine will need two doses to be effective. The first one and then the second 21 days later.
The Australian Government is working from advice that the first free doses should go to:
Once there are enough doses in stock, everyone who wants to be vaccinated in Australia should be able to by October 2021 – according to Health Minister, Greg Hunt.
A recent review has found that it’s unlikely that the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines rolled out will prevent virus transmission. This means that people who are vaccinated may not feel unwell, but may still catch COVID-19 and pass it on to other people. This will make continuing high levels of testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine crucial.
The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences commissioned the review to outline the steps for Australia’s pandemic response into 2021.
You can read more about the review on The Guardian.
Clinical trials of new vaccines and drugs are usually done with healthy adults first. Once proven safe, they are then sometimes trialled in children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people. None of the trials have included children yet. Most of the early trials have also so far excluded pregnant women and people with diseases that might be made worse by taking part in the trial.
Australia’s drugs regulator won’t approve use of the vaccines in children, pregnant women or immunocompromised people until it has seen data and is satisfied about the vaccine is safe for these groups.
Scientists don’t know if the vaccines will stop the virus spreading. The vaccines stopped people getting sick in the trials, but they don’t know whether they had a very mild infection without symptoms that could still be spread.
The Australian Government is making the vaccinations voluntary at the moment but they’re hoping that 95 per cent of Australians will get vaccinated.
You can read more about the vaccines Australia has been considering on The Guardian.