Australia stands firm on vaccine release date as US gives Pfizer emergency approval

Australia stands firm on vaccine release date as US gives Pfizer emergency approval

The Department of Health is sticking to its advice that Aussies won’t see a vaccine for COVID-19 until at least March, as the US allows emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine against COVID-19 emergency approval for people 16 or older.

Emergency approval has also been granted for the vaccine in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Mexico.

Despite this, Australia’s acting Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, said the government would stick to its original plan.

“It will be going through the full regulatory process through our own world-class regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration,” he said during a press conference, which was live-streamed on the Department of Health’s Facebook page.

“[It’s] quite a different situation in the UK, in Canada and now in the US in terms of what’s happening with the pandemic and their need, their emergency, in fact, to have a vaccine available to the population starting with priority groups just as we are planning to do so in Australia.

“This is not full approval that the FDA has given – neither has the UK, neither has Canada. These are emergency use authorisations to allow the vaccine to roll out.”

Pfizer also released the results of its phase three trial of the vaccine on Friday, which Kelly said was “very encouraging”.

“Ninety-five per cent effective, effective in old people and young people, effective in healthy people and people with chronic disease, and a very good safety profile,” he said.

Kelly’s update echoes Health Minister Greg Hunt’s announcement last week that despite the UK’s emergency approval, Australia plans to stick to its original plan and release the vaccine in March.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters the government had scrapped Queensland University’s COVID-19 jab from its vaccination plan after it returned false-positive HIV results.

Morrison said the decision allowed the government to increase Australia’s access to other vaccine candidates.

“And so we are increasing our production and purchase of AstraZeneca vaccines from 33.8 million to 53.8 million, and we’re increasing our access to the Novavax vaccine from 40 million to 51 million,” he said.

“So that’s an extra 20 million doses of AstraZeneca, and an extra 11 million doses of Novavax. The AstraZeneca vaccine, of course, is manufactured here in Melbourne by CSL.”

Featured image source: Facebook/Australian Government Department of Health

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