Australia’s chief medical officer defends AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine amid efficacy concerns

Australia has secured 54m doses of the vaccine some experts say is inferior to Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, which Australia has bought just 10m doses of

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  • Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly and infectious diseases experts have defended securing 54m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine made by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, amid concerns the vaccine will not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity.

    The president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, Prof Stephen Turner, told Nine media that Australia should halt the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout because it has “lower efficacy”.

    Related: Australia’s Covid vaccines: everything you need to know

    The choice we have is not whether to use one or the other, it is whether to use what we have

    Related: ‘How dare you leave’: confusion remains for some Victorians stranded interstate

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    Zoloft enters list of 10 most commonly prescribed drugs in Australia

    Increase in women being diagnosed with depression partly behind rise in use

    An increase in women being diagnosed with depression is partly behind a significant rise in prescriptions of the antidepressant sertraline – sold under the brand name Zoloft – which is in the list of Australia’s most commonly prescribed drugs for the first time.

    On Tuesday Australian Prescriber published its annual list of the 10 most commonly taken drugs – based on standard daily doses for every 1,000 people in the population each day – along with a list of the 10 most costly drugs to government, and the 10 most common drugs by prescription counts.

    Related: Why mental health is the legacy-defining fight Scott Morrison can’t afford to lose | Katharine Murphy

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    What does the Pfizer Covid vaccine breakthrough mean for Australia?

    Interim results show vaccine to be 90% effective, but findings have not been peer-reviewed, Australia has only secured enough for five million people, and there are concerns around its storage temperature

    • Pfizer says vaccine is 90% effective
    What has Pfizer’s vaccine trial found?
    Vaccine announcement is cause for cautious celebration

    News that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and partner company BioNTech have developed a vaccine that proved 90% effective in protecting people from Covid-19 in global trials has been heralded a “breakthrough”. Pfizer chief executive, Dr Albert Bourla, described the results as “a great day for science and humanity”.

    But what do the findings mean for Australia, and for the other Covid-19 vaccines being researched?

    Related: Hopes rise for end of pandemic as Pfizer says vaccine is 90% effective

    Related: The race for a Covid vaccine: inside the Australian lab working round the clock to produce 100m doses

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    Australia’s drug regulator TGA approves Covid tests that deliver results in 15 minutes

    Healthcare workers and health departments will be among the first to use the rapid antigen tests

    Australia’s drugs regulator has approved four rapid antigen Covid-19 tests for distribution throughout the country with health workers and departments among the first to use the tests than can deliver results in 15 minutes.

    The Australian pathology and pharmaceutical companies approved to import and distribute the tests are required to provide the Therapeutic Goods Administration with data about the efficacy of the tests over time. Supply of the tests will be limited to accredited laboratories, medical practitioners, healthcare professionals in residential or aged care facilities, and to government health departments.

    Related: NSW lifts more Covid restrictions as border reopens with South Australia

    Related: Covid map Australia: tracking new cases, coronavirus stats and live data by state

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    Oxford University Covid vaccine trial put on hold due to possible adverse reaction in participant

    A spokesman for AstraZeneca, the company working on the coronavirus vaccine, said pausing trials was common during vaccine development

    The development of a promising Covid-19 vaccine has been put on hold due to a possible adverse reaction in a trial participant.

    A spokesman for AstraZeneca, the company working with a team from Oxford University, told the Guardian the trial has been stopped to review the “potentially unexplained illness” in one of the participants.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Related: Let’s get real. No vaccine will work as if by magic, returning us to ‘normal’ | Jeremy Farrar

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    Here’s everything you need to know about the potential Oxford University Covid vaccine

    The vaccine is designed to mimic the coronavirus and train the immune system to react if a person is later infected

    The vaccine developed and tested by a team at Oxford University is one of the most promising of the many candidates being developed around the world to protect against Covid-19. Australia has now signed a letter of intent with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to supply Australians with the vaccine if it clears safety and effectiveness trials, with the prime minister now saying it won’t be compulsory but will be encouraged.

    Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will we have a coronavirus vaccine?

    Related: Global report: WHO warns against dangers of ‘vaccine nationalism’

    A Phase II/III trial aims to enrol up to 10,560 adults and children across the UK.

    A Phase III trial in the US is looking for 30,000 participants.

    Brazil started a Phase III trial of the vaccine in June, which will enrol 5,000 volunteers.

    A team in South Africa is looking to enrol 2,000 people to trial the vaccine.

    Related: Will a vaccine or recovery from the virus give us long-term immunity to Covid-19?

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    Australia experiencing critical shortage of antidepressants, contraceptives and HRT

    Reasons for shortages are often unclear and substitutes, which are not subsidised by PBS, are prohibitively expensive

    Australia is experiencing a critical shortage of key drugs including antidepressants, contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies, a situation that experts say highlights systemic problems with medicine supply in the country.

    Most of the shortages appear unrelated to coronavirus disruptions, although in the case of the popular antidepressant Prozac, the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, cites “unexpected increase in demand” during the crisis. Other manufacturers refuse to detail reasons for the supply problems.

    Related: Australian drugmakers hit by critical shortages at height of pandemic, inquiry hears

    Related: Many doctors have colleagues they wouldn’t want to treat their own family | Ranjana Srivastava

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    Australian drugmakers hit by critical shortages at height of pandemic, inquiry hears

    Evidence given to parliamentary committee sparks new calls to develop national capability to manufacture medicines and key supplies

    Australian companies were “shocked” to experience price-gouging and had trouble accessing critical supplies to make medicines and personal protective equipment at the height of the pandemic, a parliamentary committee has been told.

    It has prompted fresh calls for Australia to build up its ability to manufacture critical drugs “without reliance on opaque and fragile offshore supply chains”.

    Related: Paracetamol and Ventolin limited to one per customer as Australia combats coronavirus hoarding

    Related: Australia needs a national centre for disease control, peak doctors’ group says

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