Australian scientists raise doubts over AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine efficacy

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GBNEWS24 DESK//

Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new coronavirus case on Wednesday, reports Reuters.

The opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand.

“The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” said Professor Stephen Turner, the president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology (ASI).

Turner added that the government must pivot toward getting more of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Experts, including Turner, cited data showing the AstraZeneca jab had 62 percent efficacy compared with over 90 percent for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

In a statement, the ASI said Turner was speaking as an expert in immunology and that the body did not advocate a pause to the rollout as widely reported by local media.

Earlier, Turner told the Sydney Morning Herald the AstraZeneca vaccine is not one “I would be deploying widely because of that lower efficacy.”

Australia has 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, though neither AstraZeneca nor Pfizer have approval from the country’s drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, attempted to thwart the concerns around its efficacy, saying the AstraZeneca jab was “effective,” “safe” and of “high quality.”

“The great advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it’s being made here in Australia,” Kelly said. “It will be available as soon as the TGA gives its tick, which we expect that it will in February.”

Kelly said Australia will have more data by February as well as “real-world information” coming from London, which has already rolled out the vaccine.

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