COVID-19

Australian vaccine rollout: ‘Nothing is off the table’

Prof Kelly suggested that the government was even considering a deal with Moderna to redress vaccine shortfalls.“We are looking at all of those options right now. We know that Novavax – we have 51 million doses on order – is not yet approved by the TGA.“The TGA will absolutely expedite that matter and as soon as Novavax is ready to supply to Australia we will be going through those processes,” he said.He did not say there was a problem with the vaccine rollout, but said it would be discussed at today’s cabinet and that he will “not pre-empt those discussions”.He also called on Australians to maintain confidence in the vaccination rollout.“Of course something like the announcements overnight can affect vaccine confidence,” he told the ABC. “But the important thing is for the Australian public to know that as soon as we’ve known something, as soon as our expert advice from the ATAGI group gives us the guidance on immunisation, we went out and informed the public.“We’ve made this preference for not using AstraZeneca in the under 50s on the basis of that safety concern but I would really urge people to make sure that they are lining up when it’s their turn.”It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet with the states and territories today and discuss how Australia’s vaccine rollout will continue with supply gaps after new advice on the usage of the AstraZeneca jab.Flanked by Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Health Dr Brendan Murphy and Health Minister Greg Hunt last night, Mr Morrison accepted new medical advice that Australians under the age of 50 should preferably get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.Already, West Australia’s government has banned anyone under the age of 50 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.WA Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson said that from Friday, AstraZeneca vaccinations will only be given to those over 50.“People under 50 who are booked in to receive their AstraZeneca vaccine will have their appointments cancelled,” he said in a statement.People in the 1a and 1b vaccination program – including health workers – who are under 50 and have already received their first AstraZeneca vaccine, should “not be alarmed” and get their second jab.“You should not cancel your second vaccination booking,” Dr Robertson said.The advice will affect the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the federal government has only secured 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.Unlike the AstraZeneca jab being manufactured by CSL in Australia, the Pfizer vaccine cannot be produced in Australia.Australia has also signed supply contracts for 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.This is still yet to be approved by national medical regulators.Mr Morrison said they would see a “recalibration” on the vaccine rollout, and work through the logistics “in an orderly way”.“The task now overnight, through the course of tomorrow and over the weekend there will be a recalibration of how the program will need to be adjusted to take into account the decision the government has taken tonight to accept those recommendations from ATAGI,” he said.“There are of course Pfizer vaccines in Australia and we are getting a regular supply of those and they can be prioritised against the individuals.”Dr Murphy said Australia continued to negotiate with Pfizer for more doses, and he said he was confident they could get more supplies. “We are working with them almost on a daily basis to see when they can increase their supply,” he said.After the EU regulator found the AstraZeneca jab was linked to “rare but serious blood clots”, the UK revised its advice and will not be giving the vaccine to younger people. NED-3560 Vaccine Rollout in AustraliaAt a late-night press conference in Canberra, Prof Kelly said the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) had advised younger Australians, who have not yet received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, should get the alternative jab: Pfizer.Australians aged over 50 will continue to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the medics described “highly effective”.“Immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual’s circumstances,” he said.NED-3602-AstraZeneca-Side-Effects“People that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose. This includes adults under the age of 50, and people who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of COVID-19 AstraZeneca should not be given the second dose.”Mr Hunt said more than 996,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given on Thursday and the government is expected to reach its first one million dose milestone soon.TGA MAKES IT EASIER TO DELIVER PFIZER VACCINEThe Therapeutic Goods Administration has agreed to make it easier to store and transport the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Australia – as health experts around the countries decide the future of the embattled AstraZeneca jab.The TGA has today approved the storage and transportation of unopened vials of the vaccine at domestic freezer temperature levels of -25 degrees to -15 degrees Celsius for up to two weeks.This marks a major improvement in the logistics of managing the vaccine which was previously required to be stored at “ultra-cold” temperatures.A temperature between -90 degrees and -60 degrees Celsius will still be required for longer term storage.“Vials stored or transported in this manner can also be returned to ultra-cold longer-term storage within the original shelf life of the product,” a statement read.NED-3614-Pfizer-Side-EffectsThe TGA added that unopened vials can also be stored for up to five days at domestic refrigerator levels between 2 degrees and 8 degrees Celsius.“Within this five-day period, up to 12 hours may be used for transportation,” the TGA advised.“But the time used for transport of unopened vials at refrigerator temperatures counts against the five day limit for storage at 2°C to 8°C.”The vaccine cannot be refrozen once it has been thawed.The TGA added that the vaccine is diluted with saline prior to administration and the diluted vaccine can be stored or transported at room temperatures of up to 30 degrees for up to six hours.

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