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Health chief moves to ease concerns over vaccine

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Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has defended Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, despite concerns about one of the drugs at the centre of the strategy.

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Kelly sought to ease concerns about the effectiveness of a leading coronavirus vaccine after some some doctors said that the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca may not be enough to achieve herd immunity.

The drug has an efficacy rate of between 62 and 90 per cent in clinical trials, which is well below both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The Federal Government has ordered 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and plans to give it to most Australians, pending approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Some medical professionals want the planned rollout suspended and are urging the government to pivot to other options.

But Kelly is standing by the strategy, which has been in planning for many months.

“The great advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it is being made here in Australia. It will be available as soon as the TGA gives its tick, which we expect that it will in February,” he told the ABC.

“We’re not the only country in the world that has AstraZeneca ordered. AstraZeneca is one of the mainstays of the global response and remains so.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine is effective, it is safe and it’s a high-quality vaccine, but those are the things that the TGA will be looking at with their full approval coming very soon.”

Australia has supply agreements in place for the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Novavax vaccines.

The federal government has not struck a deal for Johnson and Johnson or Moderna, whose drug is easier to distribute than the Pfizer vaccine.

Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen is urging the government to secure more deals, warning of potential risks if AstraZeneca fails to pass health and safety checks.

“That’s why the Federal Government should have been months ago spreading that risk more thinly with more deals,” Bowen told ABC radio on Wednesday.

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