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Australia Most Australians will get the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, but priority groups will receive the Pfizer drug. What's the difference?

20:46  11 january  2021
20:46  11 january  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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What ' s the difference ? By national medical reporter Sophie Scott and the Specialist Reporting Team's Mary Lloyd and Emily Clark. Posted MonMonday 11 JanJanuary 2021 at 8:59pm MonMonday 11 JanJanuary 2021 at 8:59pm , updated FriFriday 5 FebFebruary 2021 at 11:51am FriFriday 5 FebFebruary Last week, the Federal Government outlined its plan to administer the Pfizer vaccine to "first- priority groups " because Australia will get that drug first, but only in a limited supply. Over the weekend, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said most Australians would receive the AstraZeneca

Most Australians will get the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine , but priority groups will receive the Pfizer drug . The Pfizer vaccine has been designed to be given in two doses, with the first to start building immunity What you need to know about coronavirus : When will I get the vaccine ?

As Australians navigate lockdowns, border closures, hotel quarantine and COVID-19 testing queues, the wait for the vaccines that will protect the population is slowly shortening.

But before the largest vaccination program in the country's history can kick off next month, many of the details have to be decided, implemented and communicated to the public.

Last week, the Federal Government outlined its plan to administer the Pfizer vaccine to "first-priority groups" because Australia will get that drug first, but only in a limited supply.

Over the weekend, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said most Australians would receive the AstraZeneca drug as part of the Government's strategy because "we are making it here".

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Australia ' s vaccine rollout is to be further delayed after local regulators advised limiting use of the AstraZeneca shot - the country' s main vaccine . On Thursday, the government said it now recommended that people aged under 50 get the Pfizer jab over AstraZeneca ' s . It follows restrictions in other nations, after Europe' s drug regulator found a rare blood clot risk linked to the vaccine . The move is likely to delay a goal to vaccinate all Australians this year. The country is already running about 85% behind schedule - it has inoculated about one million of its almost 26 million people so far.

The Pfizer option will be given to priority groups (which includes quarantine workers and people Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday announced Australians would begin receiving the vaccine from How will the coronavirus vaccine work? How long do vaccinations usually remain effective?

So, which are you likely to get and what's the difference anyway?

The Pfizer vaccine

The Pfizer Biotech drug is not yet approved in Australia, but it's likely to be the first COVID-19 vaccine to clear the Therapeutic Goods Administration's approval process.

It has a reported efficacy of 95 per cent and Australia has 10 million doses on order.

We know the "first-priority populations" of Australians will receive the Pfizer vaccine in "phase 1a" of the rollout.

This will include:

  • 70,000 quarantine and border workers
  • 100,000 frontline healthcare workers
  • 318,000 aged care and disability care workers
  • 190,000 aged care and disability care residents

From there, the Government plans four further phases of the vaccine rollout, using the AstraZeneca drug to protect most of the population.

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He said the deal means Australia will get a total of 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of the year, enough to inoculate 20 million people in the nation of 26 million. Australia ' s pivot came after the European Medicines Agency said this week it had found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, though regulators in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people. After the European agency' s declaration, Australian drug regulators held a series of urgent meetings

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The AstraZeneca vaccine

The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in partnership with Oxford University and Australia signed supply orders for the drug months ago.

The benefit of this drug is it is being manufactured in Australia by biotechnology company CSL, meaning supply is secured.

The reported efficacy is about 70 per cent and, just as with the Pfizer drug, it will be administered in two doses.

The COVID-19 vaccines will be recommended to almost all Australians and will be made available to Australian citizens, permanent residents and most visa holders for free.

Why Australia will use both

Using the first-available COVID-19 vaccines that are safe makes sense, according to epidemiologist Hassan Vally.

Australian health authorities have the most comprehensive data for the Pfizer vaccine and will look at approving that one first.

"It's important to get the vaccine out there and it makes sense to roll out the first available vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, to vulnerable groups," Dr Vally from La Trobe University said.

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Philippines and Netherlands suspend use of AstraZeneca jab for people under age 60; Australia recommends people under 50 get the Pfizer vaccine . Fake coronavirus vaccine passports are being sold online for “peanuts” in a fast-growing scam that has alarmed authorities as countries bet on the documents to revive travel and their economies, cyber security experts said. From Iceland to Israel, a number of countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can prove they have been vaccinated – letting them visit leisure venues or cross borders if they show vaccine papers.

Philippines and Netherlands suspend use of AstraZeneca jab for people under age 60; Australia recommends people under 50 get the Pfizer vaccine . Fake coronavirus vaccine passports are being sold online for “peanuts” in a fast-growing scam that has alarmed authorities as countries bet on the documents to revive travel and their economies, cyber security experts said. From Iceland to Israel, a number of countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can prove they have been vaccinated – letting them visit leisure venues or cross borders if they show vaccine papers.

And experts said giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to the rest of the population was a good move, as it would be manufactured locally.

Dr Vally said local manufacturing put Australia in a good position.

"In terms of practicalities, it is a huge advantage to have a vaccine that we are able to manufacture onshore, given all the global issues that are likely to occur over the next 12 months," he said.

Dr Vally said no matter which vaccine people received, the more people who got the jab, the better.

"The more people we vaccinate, the less susceptible the community is to the virus and so the less of a threat the virus poses," he said.

Immunologist Kylie Quinn said Australia was fortunate to have two tools in its vaccine toolkit, the Pfizer jab for those most at risk and the AstraZeneca inoculation for the broader community.

"They may not be offered the more effective vaccine, but the AstraZeneca vaccine is still a pretty decent vaccine, and if we all do a good job of taking up the vaccine, then it's going to provide that broader protection in the community," she said.

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Dr Vally said: "Every vaccination means one less person who is going to get sick."

The difference in how they work

Not all Australians will get the same vaccine, but both drugs are trying to achieve the same goal.

All vaccines want to train a person's immune system to recognise a particular virus as dangerous before the person succumbs to the disease.

One way to identify the virus that causes COVID-19 is by its surface spikes, which are made of a protein unique to this virus.

To get a person's body to recognise the virus, both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines use the body's own cells to produce the spike protein.

They then show this protein to the body's immune system so it can produce the cells needed to destroy any foreign organism displaying it.

Where the vaccines differ is the way they give the body's cells the information they need to produce that protein.

For the Pfizer vaccine, scientists have created a piece of mRNA — or messenger ribonucleic acid — that contains all the instructions a cell needs to create the protein that identifies coronavirus.

To deliver the instructions into the body's cells, they have packaged it in a tiny fatty particle, a nano lipid.

Dr Quinn said lipids were a very efficient way of getting inside cells.

"If you've got a little bubble of liquid, it's much more likely to bind to the surface of the cell and deliver its payload into the cells," she said.

Once the mRNA is inside the cell, its machinery produces the target protein, displays it on the surface of the cell, and as a result the body's immune system creates T-cells that now know what to look out for.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a weakened virus to deliver the instructions into our cells.

The scientists working on this vaccine have inserted a piece of genetic code, this time DNA, into the code of a similar virus that has been altered so it cannot cause disease.

Dr Quinn, who has worked on the development of several vaccines, said weak viruses were chosen as the carrier cells, and then they were turned into mere shells.

"We gut them further just to make sure that they really can't cause any issues," she said.

As with the Pfizer vaccine, when this one enters our cells, it teaches them to make the spike protein and shows it to the immune system so the T-cells know how to neutralise it when they next see it.

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