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COVID-19; Vaccines efficacy debate worries Australia’s chief medical officer

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Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Wednesday that he was “concerned” that the debate around the efficacy of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines could erode public confidence.

The Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology recently called on the Australian government to pause its planned rollout of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines, saying it might not be effective enough to generate herd immunity to the virus.

Some experts cited trials of the vaccine that found it was 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, compared to about 95 per cent for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Paul Kelly dismissed any doubts over the efficacy of the vaccine, of which Australia has purchased more than 50 million doses, but admitted he was “concerned” that the debate would lead to increased vaccine scepticism.

“I am concerned,” he told an Australian breakfast television programme on Wednesday.

“Once controversy is opened up and people make comments based on interim results from a Phase 3 trial – it was published, by the way, a month ago, so I’m not exactly sure why it’s coming up today.

“But once that sort of conversation starts, of course, people will be wondering about whether it’s the right decision.

“We’ll be guided by the actual medical advice,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Kelly reassured Australians that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) would carefully consider all data before approving any of the vaccines acquired by the government.

Vaccinations in Australia are set to begin in mid-February with the rollout to be accompanied by a public information campaign on the safety of vaccines.

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