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Live: ‘It’s safe to take’: Prime Minister hails Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine approval

5mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 3:39am

By Dannielle Maguire

So, will we need to get booster shots for these vaccines? 

It’s a fair question to ask: once you get vaccinate for COVID-19, are you done? Or are you going to have to keep getting them as the years go on?

Health experts are yet to determine that.

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines must be given out in two doses. But it’s not yet known how long the vaccines will stop people from getting seriously ill from coronavirus.

The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration John Skerrit said the research into that is still ongoing. Here’s what he said:

“What we don’t know is, especially with the emergence of variants or maybe these vaccines provide two years protection, but not life. Whether in 2022, 2023, people will have to have a booster.

“No-one knows that.

“Again it’s something we are looking at closely. The immune response seems to be pretty durable.”

30mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 3:14am

By Kelsie Iorio

Thanks for joining me this morning

The wonderful Dannielle will take you through the rest of the afternoon, bringing you all the key coronavirus news.

I’m off for a spot of birthday cake.

31mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 3:14am

By Dannielle Maguire

I’m here. 

Kelsie is going home for a well deserved rest after steering you lot through this morning. 

Now it’s my turn. Buckle up, buttercups. 

42mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 3:02am

By Kelsie Iorio

That’s a long way to scroll

I click on the home page headline ‘WHO confirms dramatic fall in new Covid-19 cases globally’ but I’m buggered if I can find the actual story on your Live page. And I’ve scrolled down and down…

-Ross

Hey Ross, that was the very first post in the blog this morning, and it’s been a busy day, so you would have been scrolling for a while.

Here’s a quick recap for those who joined us more recently: 

  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (the director-general of the WHO) says the global number of new COVID-19 infections being reported is the lowest it’s been in months
  • They were hovering around 5 million a week in January — we’re now down to two-and-a-half million
  • Cases have been declining consistently for the last five weeks
  • The drop in cases is aligning with early vaccine rollouts, among other aspects

48mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:56am

By Kelsie Iorio

Pfizer age blocks

Which ages are the Pfizer vaccines recommended for?

-Grace

At this stage (and under the premise that this could change for a whole variety of reasons), here’s the rollout plan for the Pfizer vaccine in Australia based on age: 

Phase 1b: People over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55, younger adults with underlying medical conditions including those with a disability

Phase 2a: Adults aged between 50 and 69, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 to 54

Phase 2b: The rest of the adult population (and anyone in the brackets above who got missed)

Phase 3: Children under the age of 16

59mminutes agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:45am

By Kelsie Iorio

Reminder: for personal medical advice, please speak to your doctor

Hi, I’m allergic to the flu shot (I get severe hives), can I still get a Covid-19 vaccine? Which would be safer to get Pfizer or Astra/Zeneca?
I have tried to read the contraindication in the TGA documents but I don’t understand the ingredients lists (6.1) in product information. Could you please help with a plain english version?

-CJ

I think now is as good a time as ever to remind everyone that here at the COVID blog we can bring you lots of information from doctors, government authorities, scientists, researchers and beyond, but I personally am not a doctor.

If you’re unsure what any COVID-19 information like vaccine announcements etc means for you personally, please speak to your GP.

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:42am

By Kelsie Iorio

What’s the deal with vaccines and pregnancy?

Any info on safety for pregnancies? Very little data I can find.

-Expectant

There is relatively limited data on this at the moment, especially in Australia, but this was mentioned briefly during today’s press conference with Professor John Skerritt.

My good friend and reporter Georgia Hitch has done this handy breakdown of the key points: 

Right at the end of his spiel Professor John Skerritt from the TGA specifically spoke about what the advice is for pregnant women who want to get the jab.

He pointed out that this is a tricky area because you can’t take part in clinical trials when you’re pregnant.

“It’s just a safety measure, a precautionary measure,” Professor Skerrit said.

But he also said there were instances where people didn’t know they were pregnant when they signed up to the trial or became pregnant during it.

Then there were pregnant frontline workers in the UK and elsewhere whose health systems couldn’t afford them to stop working, so they actively chose to be vaccinated.

All of these women, and their babies, are now being closely monitored on a register.

Professor Skerritt said so far “there’s no evidence of anything untoward such as miscarriage or illness during pregnancy” and no reports of “adverse outcomes”.

That said, the TGA hasn’t issued any advice on what Australian women who are pregnant should do just yet.

“As the weeks and months go on, we’ll know a lot more about pregnancy with these vaccines,” he said.  

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:38am

By Kelsie Iorio

Even more info on the over 65s thing

REPORTER: The TGA information on the jab says it should be a case-by-case basis for older people. You just said that there’s no upper age limit. Can you explain what that means? And should older people get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

PROF SKERRITT: We recommend that older people should get the AstraZeneca vaccine. The wording “case-by-case” relates to a discussion… Well, it comes down to what it all means. I’m 61, when I 40, I thought that 60 was old. Now I’ve decided that 60 is very young. So old is always in your mind.

To be fair, we were aware and there were reports globally of deaths in Norwegian aged care facilities. It turned out that sadly, hundreds of people in any state and territory die per month in aged care facilities of what we used to call old age. So the use of any medicine for any procedure is to look at what doctors call futility. If someone only has a few weeks to live, you won’t give them a hip replacement and may not give them a vaccine. So that’s what we’re talking about, but the vaccine is recommended for use in all ages.

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:34am

By Kelsie Iorio

Quick break to talk about borders for a sec

Hi! I know this is slightly off-topic with the PM talking about vaccines and all, but do we have any information on QLD talking to us today? I’m desperately trying to get back to QLD from VIC 🙁

-Marooned

We’ve already heard from the Queensland Premier this morning, and no changes were announced formally there.

At this stage, the situation remains that anyone who has been in Greater Melbourne in the last 14 days or since 7 February 2021 (whichever is shorter) must enter hotel quarantine at their own expense if travelling into Queensland.

Anyone who has been in any part of Victoria in the last 14 days has to complete a Queensland Border Declaration Pass to enter Queensland.

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:27am

By Kelsie Iorio

More on over 65s

Professor John Skerritt clarified the TGA’s advice on giving the vaccine to people over 65, given it said “there were an insufficient number of participants infected by COVID-19 to conclusively determine the efficacy in this subgroup”.

When the original clinical trials were going on, AstraZeneca targeted them towards heathcare workers who were of working age and under 65, and then only included older people later on.

But Professor Skerritt said the TGA’s analysis of the data “gives us no reason” to think that the vaccine wouldn’t work on older people. 

He also went on to say that the experience in the UK during their vaccine rollout has shown positive immune responses, as have blood tests looking at immune responses in people over 65.

Reporting by Georgia Hitch

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:24am

By Kelsie Iorio

Scott Morrison’s press conference has ended

We’ll continue to break down some of the info from that update throughout the afternoon.

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:03am

By Kelsie Iorio

No upper age limit for AstraZeneca

Here’s Professor Skerritt again: 

“Our approval of this vaccine does not have an upper age limit.

“The data for this vaccine in older groups is limited, and that goes back to the original design of the trials, where AstraZeneca targeted their initial trials towards health care workers, who are of working age and usually under 65, and only included older people later on.

“But our analysis of the data gives us no reason to suspect that the vaccine would not be fully efficacious in older groups.

“Secondly, the experience in the UK, in the rollout, and we’ve got to remember they have been vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine now for more than a month, and their experience is also of very good results obtained with both of the major vaccines in older groups. And of course, their rollout has been targeted, not only towards front-line health workers but towards those in the British call ‘care homes’.”

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 2:01am

By Kelsie Iorio

Second country to fully approve AstraZeneca

John Skerritt from the TGA says Australia’s regulator is the second in the world to do a full conditional approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“There’s a number of other countries such as the UK, you’re familiar with, Brazil, and so forth, who have authorised this vaccine in emergency authorisation.

“As the minister said, just overnight, the World Health Organization confirmed its support for an emergency use listing for this vaccine.”

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 1:53am

By Kelsie Iorio

AstraZeneca ‘cleared for lift-off’: Heath Minister

Greg Hunt says the TGA has “taken the best advice from around the world” to approve the latest vaccine.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine, on current advice, we hope and expect that it should be able to commence subject to shipping confirmation, which we can now proceed to, in early March, if not earlier.

“Our containment is strong. But we always have to remain vigilant. The vaccine rollout is on track and today’s another important milestone.”

1hhour agoTueTuesday 16 FebFebruary 2021 at 1:49am

By Kelsie Iorio

Vaccination is ‘enormous exercise’: PM

We’re hearing from Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt now.

The Prime Minister says planning has been underway for some time to get the vaccine rollout moving.

“The vaccination program is critical to our ongoing management of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the vaccines that we have, they address the critical issue of serious disease and indeed, the risk of fatality that can arise from COVID-19 and increasingly we’re seeing positive signs about its impact on transmissibility as well.”

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