Burnet welcomes COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Burnet Institute acknowledges and welcomes the commencement of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for Australia’s priority groups as an important initiative that will enable people to take action to protect themselves, their families and the community from the global pandemic.

Professor Mike Toole AM, Technical Advisor for Burnet’s Know-C19 Hub, said the robust review processes of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) mean that Australians can be confident that approved vaccines meet strict safety and efficacy criteria.

“It’s an exciting time – I don’t think many of us would have believed 12 months ago that we would be rolling out the first of a number of vaccines,” Professor Toole said.

“Most importantly, all the evidence suggests that it’s a very safe process.”

Professor Toole recommends that people refer to the Commonwealth Department of Health Website to find out when they will be eligible to receive the vaccine, and there’s a helpful link on the ABC website in the form of a quiz.

“Otherwise, if you have any concerns about the vaccine – perhaps you’ve had previous allergies – it’s important to go to your GP for fact-based advice,” he said.

“Don’t rely on some of the misleading links on Facebook – some of these are delivering a lot of misinformation.”

Professor Caroline Homer AO, Burnet Co-Program Director for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health said there are no concerns about the vaccine’s safety in breastfeeding women or their babies.

“This means that breastfeeding women can receive the vaccine at any time and do not need to stop feeding before or after,” Professor Homer said.

“Vaccination during pregnancy is not currently recommended for all women, however, pregnant women who have medical risk factors for severe COVID-19 should consider being vaccinated.

“Women need to have this discussion with their health provider and weigh up the potential benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks, and guidance from the Australian Government and from RANZCOG will be helpful for each woman to make that decision.”

Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC said it’s important to remember that vaccines are among many tools available to save lives and reduce the social and economic impact of the pandemic.

“Vaccinating our population, and that of the rest of the world, will take quite a bit of time, so it is critical that for the foreseeable future we continue to use public health measures, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, the judicious use of face masks, good ventilation and effective controls at international borders,” Professor Crabb said.

Professor Toole said the vaccine rollout will bring Australia a step closer to ‘herd’ or ‘population’ immunity.

“If we are to open up our borders, we do need a high level of population immunity,” Professor Toole said.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci in the US estimates that between 70 and 75 percent of the population needs to be immune to achieve herd immunity now, and we can’t really achieve that this year if we only rely on the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, neither of which are approved for children under the age of 16.

“So I think it will be important to bring (the) Novavax (vaccine) into the program, and that will help speed up the attainment of population immunity.”

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