COVID-19 vaccinations to begin next week
It is understandable that Australians are cautious about COVID-19 vaccines, given the speed of their development, but the message must be that they are safe and effective, Dr Khorshid said this week.
Department of Health figures this week showed that fewer than half of Australians surveyed are prepared to receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, although 71 per cent plan to get vaccinated by October.
“It’s really understandable for Australians to be cautious,” Dr Khorshid said in a wide-ranging interview on the ABC RN Drive program ahead of next week’s rollout of the Pfizer vaccine in Australia,.
“We were all talking about how big a challenge it was going to be to develop vaccines so quickly, and to try and reduce the expectations that the vaccine would suddenly become available and would be our ticket out of this.
“But the message for all Australians is that these vaccines have all been studied, they’ve all been shown to be safe and effective, not just in proper clinical trials but the early experience with vaccinating now millions of people.
“They are the way to stop you getting sick and dying from the disease if we do get an outbreak. And one day this virus has to come into Australia. We can’t keep our borders up forever, we can’t be a quarantine place forever, so the only way to stop Australians getting sick and dying from COVID-19 is to be vaccinated.”
Dr Khorshid said that while there are logistical challenges with the initial Phase1A rollout of the Pfizer vaccine to highest risk populations and frontline healthcare and hotel quarantine workers, the bigger challenge will be with the rest of the population.
“Where it gets much harder is actually once this rollout spreads to the rest of the population, when we go into Phases 1B and 2A and then eventually 2B,” he said.
“We’re trying to vaccinate 20 million people twice in a very short period of time. The Prime Minister has set us a target of the end of October and that’s going to be a real challenge, I think, for us to achieve.
“Even with the AstraZeneca vaccine, we’ve still got to produce the vaccine, to get it where it needs to go, and - with very little notice - recruit a vaccination workforce who can undertake 40 million vaccinations, if everyone goes and gets it done, in this very short period of just a few months.
“The Government is aware of the size of the challenge and we’re saying to them that the best way to deal with the sheer logistics and size of the task at hand is to spread it out and try and get, as soon as we can, every general practitioner involved in the program and therefore every Australian can know that they can go to their GP and get the vaccine there.”