The COVID-19 vaccination roll-out is a major development for Australia. It will enable people to take action that will help to protect themselves, their families and the wider community from a disease that has killed millions of people and impacted everyone, says the country’s expert body in the health and medical sciences.
The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) is an independent body comprising more than 400 senior researchers and health leaders. It has been active in monitoring and guiding the nation’s pandemic response.
The Academy released a formal statement today stating that 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.
“The vaccines being offered in Australia will provide a new level of protection for our community,” says Professor Tania Sorrell, Academy Fellow and University of Sydney infectious diseases researcher.
“Now we have the tools to help save lives and reduce the social and economic impact of the pandemic.”
Last December AAHMS released a report on Australia’s pandemic response that warned against seeing vaccines as silver bullets.
“Vaccinating our population, and that of the rest of the world, will take quite a bit of time,” says Professor Brendan Crabb, Academy Fellow and Director and Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute.
“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.”
In its statement today, the Academy highlights the robust review processes undertaken by the TGA which have enabled rapid approval for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“The vaccines have been subject to a full, not emergency, review by the TGA. We also have the phase 3 trial data and ongoing surveillance by regulatory agencies in the UK and Israel, with Europe to come,” said Professor Tony Cunningham, Academy Fellow and an infectious diseases expert at the University of Sydney.
“The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out has been carefully planned to protect the community, ensuring that populations such as quarantine, healthcare and aged care workers, as well as aged care residents, are given first priority.”
The Academy’s statement highlights that Australia has an important role to play in supporting global access to vaccines, particularly across the Indo-Pacific region.
“It is crucial that all countries have timely and affordable access to vaccines, to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable individuals can be protected,” says Professor Fran Baum, Academy Fellow and a public health expert at Flinders University in Adelaide.
Once the vaccination roll-out is complete, in Australia and internationally, the world will be a significant step closer to reviving major cultural activities, such as mass gatherings and international travel.
Academy President, Professor Ingrid Scheffer, says: “A crucial aspect of the response to COVID-19 has been the incredible response by the world’s health and medical research community. At the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 was an unfolding threat of unknown proportions. Today, just over 12 months later, we have a suite of vaccines supported by robust diagnostic tests, evolving evidenced-based public health measures, and steadily improving treatments for severe COVID-19 disease.”
“Many hundreds of Australian researchers have contributed to every aspect of the fight against COVID-19: helping to stop its spread through public health measures, improving treatments, developing vaccines, supporting informed communication and reducing the social effects on disrupted families and communities.”