Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says Australia’s success against coronavirus means, unlike other countries, we can wait for full vaccine approvals.
Australia’s top doctor says news of the U.S. drug regulator granting emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine — like the UK and Canada have also recently done — is not necessary in Australia.
“We don’t need any vaccine this year,” Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Saturday. “Other countries are in far different state than us and they should be prioritised.”
Australia will wait for the Therapeutic Goods Administration — the national drug regulator — to run through its own approvals of the Pfizer vaccine with the expectation it will be distributed in early 2021.
He highlighted the nation’s success at controlling virus transmission.
“Today is eighth day in a row we’ve not had any community transmission,” Kelly said. “That’s the first time we’ve been able to say that since February.”
This is compared with the fact that Friday was the most deadly day of the virus yet, with more than 13,000 deaths and skyrocketing infections, Kelly said.
The emphasis right now is on having an impenetrable hotel quarantine system.
“Whilst we’re concentrated on bringing Australians home … we have to make sure absolutely that our hotel quarantine system is the very best it can be,” Kelly said.
He said he had “all confidence” in the Victorian contract system now it had been revamped and international flights had resumed since Monday.
Victoria ended it’s 42-day virus-free streak on Saturday as five international arrivals in hotel quarantine tested positive.
Other states are handling more active cases in quarantine, with eight fresh cases recorded across other states in the past 24 hours.
Kelly said the Pfizer vaccine had reported excellent interim results in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing 95 per cent effectiveness in people of all ages, healthy or chronically ill.
It had a strong safety profile but the TGA would still go through its own process, he said.
Australia has pre-purchased 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and has secured extra doses from other vaccine manufacturers.
An extra 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a further 11 million of Novavax have been ordered to boost supplies after the University of Queensland-CSL’s vaccine effort was abandoned.
Asked whether five former prime ministers could be among the first to be vaccinated against the virus in Australia, Kelly indicated they wouldn’t necessarily be.
The priority groups will be people at high risk of infection, those at high risk of exposure and front line health workers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said any vaccine rollout in Australia will only happen with full TGA approval.
“Without the tick there’s no jab,” he said on Friday.