Scott Morrison defends AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not concerned about reports of blood clots in some people who had received AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in Europe.
Denmark, Norway, and Iceland all pressed pause on the use of the vaccine overnight over blood clot fears.

The AstraZeneca jab will make up the bulk of Australia's vaccine rollout, with 50 million doses produced onshore to complement around three million ordered from overseas.

It was one of just two vaccines granted approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), alongside the Pfizer jab.

Asked if he was worried personally about the reports, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "No, I'm not."

Mr Morrison said Australia's rollout of the AstraZeneca jab would continue unless the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) changed it's advice.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison Announces Review Into Workplace Culture At Parliament House
Prime Minister Scott Morrison Announces Review Into Workplace Culture At Parliament House

He said the medicine's watchdog was receiving vaccine data from Europe, and that he trusted that TGA and the advice they provided.

"They get it (the data) and they analyse it and if they have any change to the advice then they tell me," Mr Morrison said.

He said doses being distributed across the nation were tested in Australia by the TGA.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said regulators would be seeking information from overseas but assured Australians they could have a "high degree of confidence" in the vaccine.

"There is no reason at present for concern and every reason for confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines that will be distributed to Australians," he told Sky News.

"Our administrators have and will continue to make sure there is expert oversight around these vaccinations."

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles warned against overreacting to the reports, saying it was important to have "cool heads in this space".

"The vaccine is safe … We have the best doctors in the world, the TGA have gone through this very carefully," he told Today.

"We need to be rolling out the vaccine and there does need to be a sense of confidence about this. People can rightly feel confident about the safety of the vaccines."

Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke described the suspension as "precautionary", saying the reports needed to be "thoroughly investigated".



The Novavax vaccine purchased by Australia is 100 per cent effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and is 96.4 percent effective against mild and moderate cases of the original strain of the virus disease latest clinical trial results show.

However, its effectiveness against the UK strain of the virus dropped to 86.5 per cent, it was even less effective, 55.4 per cent, against the South African strain of the virus.

The company today released the final analysis of clinical trials of the vaccine conducted in the UK and South Africa.

"We are very encouraged by the data showing that NVX-CoV2373 not only provided complete protection against the most severe forms of disease, but also dramatically reduced mild and moderate disease across both trials. Importantly, both studies confirmed efficacy against the variant strains," said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer, Novavax.

The vaccine was well-tolerated with low levels of severe, serious adverse reactions, the company said.

Australia has purchased 51 million doses of the vaccine and hopes to get supply later this year.

A single shot of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine will be enough to "fully vaccinate" Australians Health department chief Professor Brendan Murphy has told the Senate.

The revelation came after he admitted it was "unlikely" the government would meet its commitment to deliver two doses of the vaccines to every Australian by the end of October.

This is because new evidence shows the AstraZeneca vaccine works best when there is a 12 week delay between doses, original planning was done on the basis that there was a four week delay between doses.

"In practical terms they are fully vaccinated because they've got that highly protective first dose," Professor Murphy told a Senate inquiry in Canberra.

However, he said Australians should still get two doses of the vaccine because one dose "doesn't last as long".

Labor said the new evidence to the Senate showed it could now be December before the government delivered on its pledge to vaccinate everyone.

"The Prime Minister has linked the economic recovery to the success of this vaccine rollout…clearly, they're walking away from the end of October, just like they've walked away from the 4 million vaccinated by the end of March, which they're currently around 3.8 million short of," said shadow minister for Finance Senator Katy Gallagher.

It was also "dangerous of the health department chief to put out a view that one shot's nearly good enough," she told Sky News.

Recent evidence from the UK shows the Pfizer vaccine is 72 per cent effective at preventing infection three weeks after just one dose.

The AstraZeneca vaccines is 73 per cent effective at preventing infection thirty five days after the first dose.




This makes them more effective than the annual flu vaccine which is only around 40-60 per cent effective.

However, experts say it's vital that people come back for their second jab because they will gain even higher protection from the virus behind the pandemic.

Real world studies show COVID vaccine effectiveness climbs to 86 per cent for the Pfizer vaccine one week after the second dose, this is less than the 95 per cent in initial studies.

The effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccines grew to 82.4 per cent after two doses were given 12 weeks later.

"It still remains to be seen whether that second dose confers other benefits such as longevity of protection for example, it may well be that that second dose is a significant determinant of how long the immune response last," Nucleus Network medical director Professor Paul Griffin told News Corp.



"I think what this really tells us if there is a reason people miss that second dose, then it's not a disaster, and they're still going to be well protected. But there are additional benefits from getting that second dose," he said.

The latest research also shows the AstraZeneca vaccine is performing much better in the real world than it did in clinical trials.

This vaccine is the main shot that will be given in Australia.

Original trials of the vaccine showed it was just 62 per cent effective compared to the Pfizer vaccine that was 95 per cent effective.

But real world evidence shows after two doses AstraZeneca's effectiveness is 82.4 per cent.

It comes as the company granted a federal government tender to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments with GP's was recently fined $2.9 million by the consumer watchdog for selling patient data to health fund brokers.

It follows the scandal which saw two patients overdosed on COVID-19 vaccines by a doctor employed by a federal government contractor who had not undergone vaccine training.

HealthEngine which made $1.8 million from the sale of patient information is the company patients will be directed to from a government website if they want to book a vaccination appointment with their GP.

Health Department officials have told the Senate they were aware of the fine but granted HealthEngine the contract anyway.

"We think there has been enormous improvements made by HealthEngine. We tested these carefully when we considered them for the contract," Health Department Associate Secretary Caroline Edwards told the Senate.

"Following the ACCC's recommendations health engine has strengthened its privacy and security processes and authentications," she said.


Originally published as Aussie jab rollout questioned as single dose can 'vaccinate'

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