Discussing Australia’s COVID vaccine review recommendations

In a media release dated 27th September, Professor Jane Halton AO presented her independent review of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine and treatment procurements to the Government. 

Her recommendations covered the need for public health campaigns around vaccine uptake, an updated COVID-19 policy framework, the streamlining of advisory structures, a review of vaccine distribution arrangements, and the need to ensure adequate supplies of therapeutics and vaccines across 2023 and 2024.

Professor Halton said the country has not reached ‘COVID stable’ status yet. She said Australia was “likely to continue to be challenged” by emerging virus variants and recommended advertising campaigns encouraging vaccination should continue until 2024.

Future Vaccine Supply 

Regarding specific vaccines, Professor Halton’s report said Australia would probably have an oversupply of Novavax, a protein-based vaccine of which the former government contracted 51 million doses. Recent health department data showed only around 13 million had arrived and 200,000 shots had been given.

Professor Halton also recommended the government contract more Moderna doses for next year, ahead of an “anticipated shortfall in the number of mRNA vaccines required”. In an interview with the ABC, Professor Halton said vaccines had not yet been ordered for 2024.

“I think it would be prudent for all of us to realise that this virus isn’t going away and there’s nothing that we see that suggests that people won’t continue to need to get a level of immunity, preferably, obviously, from a vaccine as opposed to being infected.

“So I’m certainly encouraging the minister. And I think that’s what he’s keen to ensure we can do, that we can all get those vaccines if and when we need them.” she said. 

Confusing Vaccine Advice 

In her review, she found that while Australia has managed to achieve high primary vaccination rates and maintained a low death rate, recent performance has lagged. She also said official health advice about vaccine eligibility had been confusing, calling for advisory structures to be “streamlined”.

In the press conference that took place on 27th September, she said “We need to make it easy for people, make it easy to access these vaccines for boosting, and I think that will then help us with uptake.

“If you actually look at our uptake of the fourth booster, we are lagging most of the world — so we’re sitting on 40 per cent, or a bit over 40 per cent at the moment. That is not as good as a number of other countries.

“I think if we make it easier for people, we will get better uptake.” 

The Novavax Conundrum 

Currently, health advice states Novavax is not a preferred booster dose for Australians under 18, but Health Minister Mark Butler said the biotechnology company had been arguing that should be reconsidered. 

The report also recommended eligibility settings for the Novavax vaccine be changed to mitigate oversupply and reduce the need for other vaccines. 

“I’ve indicated it would be good for them to present that clinical data to the Australian government and to advisory authorities,” Mr Butler said. 

“I’ve also indicated to the department it would be good for ATAGI to come together and to consider that new data.

“Obviously, it will be a matter for ATAGI to reach their own conclusions about it but at the very least, they should be considering the most recent clinical data.”

The report also found policy settings had not been updated to take into account widespread COVID-19 infections, the possibility of future waves and vaccine developments.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates.

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