The Vaccines cometh

This week’s experts:
A/Prof Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases, Mater Hospital, Brisbane; Lecturer, The University of Queensland and Principal Investigator; Medical Director, Nucleus Network

Drawn from Dr David Lim’s interview with A/Prof Paul Griffin on the Healthed Podcast, ‘Going Viral’.

– Australia has associations with at least three potential COVID-19 vaccines (the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine; the University of Queensland/CSL vaccine; the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine) and a possible fourth candidate vaccine expected to be announced soon.

– At this stage it is unknown which vaccine/s will be the ones chosen to be rolled out here in Australia ( may need more than one)– decision will be based on the results of the phase 3 studies which are expected in a matter of weeks

– Even once the phase 3 results are in, the complex logistics of a rollout will take time.

– Rollout will most likely be prioritised to ensure the most vulnerable populations receive it first eg front-line healthcare workers, aged care workers and aged care residents

– Concerns that the vaccine has not been tested on cohorts other than young, healthy individuals are unfounded. While the phase 1 studies include only a very select trial population (phase 1 trials’ principal aim is to check safety), phase 3 studies include a wide variety of age groups, ethnicities, comorbidities and even immune status.

– Concerns that we have never been able to have a vaccine against coronavirus in the past, so it’s unlikely we can get one now are also unfounded. Both SARS and MERS, while deadly were far less infectious and the epidemics petered out before the vaccines, that were in development could be finalised. Similarly we don’t have a vaccine for the common cold because the morbidity/mortality associated with a cold doesn’t warrant the time, effort and expense of developing a vaccine.

– A vaccine for COVID-19 is still needed even in countries with high infection rates, as immunity following natural infection appears short-lived.

– Ideally a highly effective vaccine (90%) would eradicate the virus but this appears to be unlikely. However even a vaccine that is moderately effective (say 50%) if combined with an adjuvant and administered to a population that still practises infection control measures will have an enormous impact in controlling this pandemic. Likely we will need boosters.

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