Herd immunity against COVID cannot be achieved in Australia with the lower-­efficacy Oxford-AstraZeneca ­vaccine, which the Morrison government plans to administer to millions of Australians, according to leading doctors.

Medics and infectious disease experts are calling for Australia to invest in more high-efficacy vaccines, rather than relying on the ­AstraZeneca jab.

Australia has ordered 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines which has been shown in trials to have a much lower level of efficacy than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being injected in Britain, France, Israel and the US, The Australian reports.

The head of the AMA in Western Australia, anaesthetist Andrew Miller, said the government should shelve its plans to begin vaccinating the population with the AstraZeneca vaccine from March.

"We need to pause and look at what the outcomes are going to be before we take any further steps," Dr Miller said.

"With the AstraZeneca vaccine, on current data, if we rely on that vaccine we're not going to get to herd immunity. Current expectation is we're going to be able to get back to normal life, but if we don't get herd immunity there's no guarantee that we won't have rolling epidemics.

"Once you have one vaccine, you may not be able to have other ones. That's why it's very important to get it right the first time."

Infectious diseases physician and professor at Monash University Michelle Ananda-Rajah said Australia should be "going for broke" to achieve herd immunity with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"I feel like Australia is short-changing itself by betting so heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine," Dr Ananda-Rajah told The Australian.

"I haven't had any clarity from the government as to what the end game here is. In my mind, the end game for Australia is we should be aiming to eliminate COVID-19.

"Here we have the opportunity to do that because we have two highly efficacious vaccines at our disposal, Pfizer and the Moderna, and we have a population that more or less is willing to be vaccinated. Herd immunity is the prize and we should be going for broke.

Professor Raina MacIntyre. Picture: UNSW
Professor Raina MacIntyre. Picture: UNSW

"So I want the government to step up and pivot, change strategy and procure more of the highly ­efficacious vaccines."

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown in trials to have an ­efficacy rate of 62 per cent, determined 14 days after the second dose in a two-dose regimen. Efficacy was 90 per cent in a subgroup of volunteers who by mistake received a half-dose for their first jab in phase 3 clinical trials.

The Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 per cent and Moderna's is 94 per cent.

Raina MacIntyre, the head of the biosecurity program at the University of NSW's Kirby Institute, said Australia would not achieve herd immunity if most people in the community received the ordinary dosage regimen of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"This vaccine is unlikely to be able to achieve herd immunity," Professor MacIntyre said. "You're not going to have enough people immune. Even if everyone's vaccinated, we'll still have the virus circulating because its ­efficacy is not high enough."

Health Minister Greg Hunt ­lashed out at Professor MacIntyre, suggesting her past predictions on coronavirus case numbers and deaths had proved wildly inaccurate. He said there were practical ­issues with the fact the Pfizer vaccine had to be stored at minus 70C.


ZERO CASES IN VICTORIA

Victoria has recorded zero new locally acquired cases of coronavirus today as more than 17,000 people were tested in the past 24 hours.

The Department of Health and Human Services also revealed three new infections in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

There are 35 active cases of COVID-19 across the state. There were 17,908 tests undertaken in the past 24 hours.

There are now more than 200 testing centres in operation in Victoria, including a new testing site near gate one at the MCG.

Almost 200,000 tests have been taken in Victoria since the start of the year.

A woman is tested at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Picture : NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
A woman is tested at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Picture : NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie


NEW CASES IN NSW, QLD

NSW reported five new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and the state has been warned that testing numbers are "way too low".

Of the new infections one is linked to the Berala cluster and two were found in the northern beaches.

The other two cases, a man and woman from the Mount Druitt area, were flagged by health officials on Monday as authorities scramble to determine the source of their infection.

The man presented at Mount Druitt Hospital's emergency department on Saturday night with symptoms of COVID-19.

He tested positive on Sunday after being transferred to Westmead Hospital where he was in isolation.

"There's still mopping up to do," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

NSW residents have been urged to get a COVID-19 test. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
NSW residents have been urged to get a COVID-19 test. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

 

The source of the two new infections on the northern beaches, a man and a woman who are both in their 40s, also remains unknown.

NSW deputy chief health officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, urged more people to come forward and get tested after 14,700 were carried out on Monday.

"You're doing a big favour to yourself, your family and community by coming forward for that testing but the testing numbers are way too low," Dr McAnulty said.

"We need 25,000-plus tests a day and we need to see testing in places such as the Northern Beaches, such as western Sydney where we've seen cases recently but it applies … throughout New South Wales".


NEW COMMUNITY CASE RECORDED IN QLD

A Brisbane Bunnings and a bottle shop are on high alert after a man who contracted the highly contagious UK strain of COVID-19 visited the stores while potentially infectious.

Queensland reported just one new locally acquired case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the partner of a hotel quarantine worker who contracted the virus last week.

The Hotel Grand Chancellor cleaner tested positive last Thursday, sending Brisbane into a three-day lockdown while authorities raced to trace, test, and isolate more than 300 close contacts.

The woman's partner is the only contact to have tested positive so far.

Two further cases were recorded in hotel quarantine - a father and daughter who recently returned from Lebanon, and 13,480 tests were conducted in the last testing period.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the news was "very reassuring" and she thanked Brisbane residents for "doing the right thing".

"I want to say how personally grateful and proud I am of the work that everybody has been doing during the lockdown and now post-lockdown. It's great to see," she said on Tuesday.

Brisbane residents will need to continue to wear a mask until at least January 22, despite the spread of a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 being so far contained. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josh Woning
Brisbane residents will need to continue to wear a mask until at least January 22, despite the spread of a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 being so far contained. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josh Woning

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said the man was first tested the morning of January 7, after his partner's positive result. He developed "minor" symptoms later that evening.

Although Dr Young said there is "little risk", an alert was issued on Monday night for Bunnings Acacia Ridge and Sunnybank Cellars, after contact tracing found the man had visited the venues while potentially infectious.

Anyone who visited Bunnings between 2-2.45pm on January 5 and Sunnybank Cellars between 2.05-2.15pm on January 6 must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days.

"The risk is low, but the risk is there. So I really ask you to come forward," she said on Tuesday.

"Whether or not they have symptoms, they need to … get tested immediately."

While Greater Brisbane is no longer under lockdown, strict mask restrictions are in place until at least January 22.

Dr Young also confirmed anyone entering Queensland from Victoria would no longer be required to get tested "unless they develop symptoms."

"We've done a risk assessment of Victoria and given the reduction in risk, Victorians can still come into Queensland as they have been able to all along, but they only need to get tested if they have any symptoms," Dr Young said.


WA PREMIER HITS OUT AT NSW

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has again lashed NSW over its approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic as tensions between the nation's borders continue to grow.

Mr McGowan said NSW's approach to was out of step with other states and an elimination approach to "crush and kill the virus" was better.

"There's five states and two territories doing one thing, and one state doing something different," Mr McGowan said.

He said states and territories that wanted to "eliminate the virus … have the right approach," in contrast to NSW.

"The idea that you tick along with the virus and somehow that is a better model is wrong," he said.

NSW’s deputy leader has accused the WA Premier of being ‘offensive’ as the war of words between the two men continues. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
NSW’s deputy leader has accused the WA Premier of being ‘offensive’ as the war of words between the two men continues. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard


In an interview with the 2GB radio station, Mr Barilaro said he was "happy" to "have a go straight back at" Mr McGowan.

"It's offensive, it was never about elimination. We know we can't eliminate it. It's suppression, it's about no community transmission," he said on Tuesday.

"Victoria has had problems, Queensland has had problems. For Mark McGowan it's easy, he puts up the borders in WA, cuts himself off from the rest of the nation … Jeez, here he is again lecturing."

Mr Barilaro said Mr McGowan would have to "stand for" death and suffering that would come as a result of social isolation.

"Stop lecturing us, and look after your own backyard," he said.


DELAYS HIT VICTORIA'S PERMIT LAUNCH

Victoria's new traffic light permit system has been hit by technical glitches during its launch amid rising tensions between the states.

The site eventually went online after a three-hour delay.

The Service Victoria portal was due to go live at 5.59pm on Monday but people logging on after 6pm were unable to access it.

A message displayed on the site on Monday night said: "The new permit system will be available shortly. Please check back here later today".

Earlier on Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state would reopen its border to people from regional NSW from Monday night.

Mr Andrews said from 5.59pm on Monday, regional NSW will become an 'orange' zone under Victoria's new traffic light permit system for coronavirus risk.

People wanting to return to Victoria will need to apply for a permit before crossing the border or face "significant" fines.

"I'm pleased to say that regional NSW from 5.59pm tonight will become orange, will move out of the red zone and people from Victoria who want to travel home from those areas, you will be able to do so," the Premier said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he hoped to provide updates on Sydney and Brisbane soon. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he hoped to provide updates on Sydney and Brisbane soon. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Greater Sydney - including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong - remains in the red zone, as does Brisbane.

"Greater Sydney remains red and we will update that daily … the public health team will provide advice at the appropriate time and that can become orange and green at some point in the future," he said.

"In terms of Brisbane, while the restrictions that have been imposed for greater Brisbane come off at 6pm tonight, the public health team is not 100 per cent confident we can have people from Brisbane returned to Victoria.

"Again that will be updated daily, late in the week hope to have more to say about Sydney, and Brisbane, I want to thank all of those people who are very patiently waiting, until the public health advice allows us to have those people return home.

"We know this is deeply inconvenient and challenging time for you, but there is no alternative but to follow the best public health advice and make sure we do nothing - any of us - do nothing to jeopardise the precious thing we have built here."

Victoria Police man a checkpoint on the Echuca-Moama bridge, the border between Victoria and NSW. Picture: Mark Stewart
Victoria Police man a checkpoint on the Echuca-Moama bridge, the border between Victoria and NSW. Picture: Mark Stewart

Under the new permit system, people arriving from orange zones will need to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours after coming into Victoria, isolating both before and after their test and until they receive a negative result.

People from green zones will be able to enter the state once a permit has been obtained and don't need to take a test.

If you have been in a red zone in the last 14 days, you will be turned back at the border.

Anyone who breaks the new rules faces a fine of $5000, although Mr Andrews said he hoped Victoria Police - who will still be patrolling the road border - would not have to issue any penalties.

Returned Victorian travellers arriving by plane or by water without a valid reason or exemption will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days and will receive a fine of $4,957.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said risks were reviewed daily. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said risks were reviewed daily. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

Professor Brett Sutton, the Victorian chief health officer, said the application process for a permit through the Service Victoria website should take only "a matter of minutes".

"There is there's always a demand right at the beginning and people need to bear that in mind and have patience with the system, but this is a system that is going to be entered into for the long haul and it will be a very efficient system going forward … it will be very agile," he said.

Professor Sutton said the decision to remove regional NSW from the red zone list came after potential outbreaks in areas such as the Central Coast, Broken Hill and Bermagui did not eventuate.

It comes as Victoria recorded zero new locally acquired cases of coronavirus on Monday.

The Department of Health and Human Services also revealed one new infection in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.


NSW

Visitors or residents of NSW who have been to Brisbane will be made to self-isolate, officials have announced.

The move came after Queensland announced a three-day lockdown of Brisbane, which will begin at 6pm Friday.

NSW will make anyone who has been in Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay, and Redlands from January 2 self-isolate.

FACE MASKS

A $200 on the spot fine will apply if you do not comply with the requirements to wear a face mask.

Children aged 12 and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

Places where face masks must be worn

You must wear a face mask indoors when you enter or work at

*retail or business premises that provides goods or services to the public including

*supermarkets

*shopping centres

*banks

*post offices

*hairdressers.

*residential aged care facilities (visitors, not residents).

Premises that are used for the purpose of providing health services are not retail premises or business premises.

Face masks are also mandatory when you are using public transport or are a passenger in a taxi or rideshare vehicle when you are waiting at a public transport waiting area (such as a bus stop, train platform or taxi rank) for all staff in hospitality venues and casinos for patrons using gaming services.

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

From midnight Friday January 8, anyone coming into SA from greater Brisbane will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

SA Premier Steven Marshall announced a hard border closure to NSW on January 1.

He said there will be few exemptions for those returning after 12.01am on Friday, but SA residents, people permanently moving states and essential travellers will be permitted.

All those groups will still need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Travellers returning to the state will need to demonstrate they met the criteria upon crossing the border.

He said people travelling from Queensland to South Australia must follow the most direct route through NSW and not spend "unnecessary time" interstate.

Mr Marshall said a 100km buffer zone will be implemented for cross-border communities, allowing people in Broken Hill and Wentworth to freely enter the state.

"We're also going to be putting some transit allowances because there are people travelling through NSW who won't be stopping," Mr Marshall said.

Mr Marshall said border arrangements with Victoria would not change.

 

VICTORIA

Victoria introduced a border permit system on Monday, January 11.

The traffic light-style system permits travel from "green zones" (no quarantine required) and "orange zones" (travellers required to be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result).

You are not allowed to travel to Victoria if you are from a "red zone" - presently, Greater Brisbane, and Greater Sydney including Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.

You can find out more here.

 

NORTHERN TERRITORY

The NT declared Greater Metropolitan Sydney a COVID-19 hotspot from midnight on New Year's Eve, meaning anyone travelling from there must enter quarantine.

The NT had previously declared only seven Sydney suburbs hot spots.

 

QUEENSLAND

Queensland, which had already declared Greater Sydney a hotspot, is assessing the situation as it unfolds.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Thursday she was closely monitoring the New South Wales cluster and the new Victorian cases.

"I'm urging Queenslanders travelling to these states to reassess their plans - if it is not necessary, then consider staying here," she said.

"The next 24 hours are critical for Victoria and the NSW cluster is growing daily. Queensland is in a good position right now because we acted quickly to declare greater Sydney a hotspot."

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western Australia has introduced a hard border with Queensland, which will take effect from midnight on Friday, January 8.

Western Australia has already shut its border to NSW travellers but on Thursday said it will close to Victorian travellers too.

From 12.01am on January 1, only exempt Victorian travellers will be allowed into WA, while returning residents must self-isolate for two weeks.

Anyone who arrived in WA from Victoria on or after December 21 must also self-quarantine for 14 days.

 

TASMANIA

Tasmania has declared nine Victorian sites as high-risk COVID-19 areas including restaurants, clubs, churches, shopping centres, hotels, and bars.

People in Tasmania who have visited are asked to self-isolate and contact the public health line on 1800 671 738.

Non-Tasmanians who have been in the areas in the specified times cannot enter Tasmania without an exemption.

It has measures in place requiring travellers from Greater Sydney to quarantine.

More details on travel alerts here.

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

Non-ACT residents are banned from entering the territory if they have travelled from hot spots, unless granted an exemption. That means all nonresidents who have been in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast or Wollongong local government areas will be refused entry at the border.

ACT residents have to sign an online declaration form before returning then quarantine for 14 days.

- with NCA NewsWire

Originally published as Scientists call for pause on Australia's chosen vaccine


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