COVID Vaccine

COVID-19 vaccination – statement from The George Institute Principal Director, Professor Stephen MacMahon

In a statement issued today, Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, Professor Stephen MacMahon AO FAA, welcomed the Australian Government’s move to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia next month. Professor MacMahon is currently in the UK finalising a partnership between The George Institute and Imperial College London for a major new program of medical research.  A large component of this will involve collaboration between the partners to develop strategies for COVID-19 prevention and management among those at highest risk of death from the virus.

Professor MacMahon said:

“I congratulate Prime Minister Morrison, Minister Hunt, and the Government as a whole, for bringing forward the roll out of a COVID-19 vaccination program.  Having experienced first-hand the enormous toll the virus is taking in the UK, it is clear to me that it is of critical importance Australia does all it can to avoid facing the same crisis.” 

“I also welcome the new measures announced after the National Cabinet meeting to help mitigate the risk posed by new, more infectious virus variants, such as the one in the UK. Maintaining low infection rates through lock downs, quarantine and testing, together with the rapid scale-up of a vaccination program, will ensure the virus does not take hold in Australia as it has in other countries.  The UK experienced very low rates of infection for several months last year as did Australia, and there was widespread optimism that the pandemic was under control.  But two months later, the rates in the UK had increased 17-fold and today one in every 50 Britons have COVID-19”.

“In many countries, one or more vaccines have been approved for emergency use on the basis of data from large-scale clinical trials demonstrating protection from the virus and few side effects.  While the usual approval process for new drugs can take 12 months or longer, the unprecedented threat posed by COVID-19 has led drug regulators to fast-track their reviews and provide approval for vaccine use when there is evidence that the benefits are likely to outweigh any risks. On the same basis, the World Health Organization has also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. This vaccine has now been given to more than seven million people worldwide, including more than a million in the UK without reports of major complications.”

“The experience to date is very encouraging in terms of vaccine safety and effectiveness, and the decision of regulators in several countries to approve one or more vaccines for emergency use appears to have been vindicated. It is encouraging to see that the approval process has now been expedited in Australia, given there has never been a time when the need for emergency use of a drug has been greater.  Action needs to be taken right now while case numbers remain low and the impact of vaccination will be greatest. The expedited roll out of the vaccination programme will help ensure Australia never finds itself in the same situation as the UK, where health authorities are battling to increase vaccination rates to the level required to control the spread of the virus. Last week, the daily number of new cases of the virus in the UK reached over 60,000 and the National Health Service is facing unprecedented pressure.  This mustn’t be allowed to happen in Australia.”