'Next big risk': Covid warning over crucial three-month window for Australia

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·2-min read

One of Australia's leading infectious diseases experts has warned the nation's coronavirus vaccine rollout must be delivered to those in need within three months.

As the Southern Hemisphere enters autumn, Professor Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University, said the next three months was a vital period for protecting Australia's vulnerable from a potential surge in infection.

"I think next winter is our next big risk time because winter viruses spread more readily," Prof Collignon told Sky News.

He said the "big goal" was for everyone over the age of 70, along with frontline healthcare and quarantine workers, to have received the jab by June.

The federal government says it took a meticulous and thorough approach when it came to approving the vaccine, unlike many of its Western counterparts who fast-tracked jabs and approved their roll-outs earlier as they battled daunting waves of infection.

People walking with face masks on during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vulnerable Australians and frontline workers are prioritised in Australia's vaccine roll-out. Source: Getty Images

Just over half of the nation's vaccines have been given to recipients so far, with Prof Collignon acknowledging there will be complications.

He said the Pfizer vaccine's need to be kept at -70C had created a "logistic difficulty".

However he said with the AstraZeneca roll-out beginning in March, which can be kept at a warmer temperature, the nation should see a rise in efficiency in terms of uptake.

Australia has acquired 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 53 million of the AstraZeneca jab.

'Very different world' expected in just months

New research from the UK has supported existing evidence a single dose of the vaccine is highly effective in preventing serious illness.

Public Health England data suggested both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs reduced the chance of needing hospital treatment in elderly people by 80 per cent.

In January there were fears a single jab offered immunity as low as 33 per cent.

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the success experienced so far was "going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months".

Health authorities however warned people it is vital for them to get their second jab.

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