'CHANGES NOTHING': Expert hits out over latest Covid vaccine update

·News Reporter
·3-min read

A vaccine expert has questioned how important the federal government's acquisition of 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses of the Moderna jab actually is to the nation's highly-critiqued rollout.

The Morrison government has faced continued scrutiny for a dwindling rollout which has fallen well behind schedule with its initial targets now unachievable.

Following a sharp fall in confidence in the nation's main vaccine, the AstraZeneca jab, after rare yet potentially fatal blood clotting complications, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday sought to ease the concerns of the public held over the nation's vaccine plan with news of a new vaccine.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Minister for Health Greg Hunt delivers a COVID-19 update in the Blue Room at Parliament House on May 13, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. The Morrison government's third budget, handed down on Tuesday, has an increased focus on women, with almost $354 million in funding allocated for women's health. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also outlined more than $10 billion in spending on major infrastructure projects across Australia aimed to help create local jobs and boost productivity in the COVID-affected national economy. Aged care will receive more than $10 billion over the next four years, in direct response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.  (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced 25 million doses of Moderna had been acquired on Thursday. Source: Getty

Yet Professor Nikolai Petrovsky of the Flinders University School of Medicine and Public Health told Yahoo News Australia the arrival of the Moderna jabs towards the end of the year and into 2022 did not paper over the cracks of the slow rollout.

"This changes nothing as the Moderna vaccine is just a mimic of the Pfizer vaccine and there is plenty of Pfizer vaccine already purchased to come at the end of the year anyway," the vaccine expert said.

"There is no evidence that Moderna vaccine is any different or offers anything more than Pfizer vaccine and the many people hesitant to have an mRNA vaccine, will have the same attitude to both."

Moderna is an mRNA-type vaccine which involve teaching our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In terms of age, over 70s will be prioritised in the vaccine rollout. Source: Getty
The vaccine rollout has been plagued with issues. Source: Getty

It is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which could take about three months.

Australia is currently receiving its first 20 million doses of Pfizer with another 20 million doses expected, but not guaranteed, to arrive after October – the date the government says all adult Australians will have been offered a jab.

Prof Petrovsky, who leads research at vaccine development company Vaxine and is in the process of developing its own Covid-19 jab, previously criticised the government for putting all its eggs in one basket.

"It was too slow to go outside of giving massive contracts to CSL to engage with non-CSL aligned vaccines such as Pfizer, and secure these contracts, so by the time they did move late last year they were at the back of the line and hence were only going to get a dribble," he said.

Moderna has indicated it will be willing to allow Australia to produce its vaccine on Australian soil, yet it does not have the domestic capacity to do so currently.

Labor slams vaccine delay

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was important to prepare for possible variants of the disease.

"We're now well into the phase of dealing with what's coming next because the pandemic is not going anywhere," he said on Thursday.

Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler wants the government to explain why the deal has taken so long.

The US, Canada, the UK, European Union, Korea, Japan and Israel are already using the jab.

"Tens and tens of millions of doses of this state-of-the-art vaccine have already been delivered to the people in those countries," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Why do Australians have to wait until the end of this year?"

More than 2.8 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country.

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