Thursday, 12 August 2021
Questions without Notice
[by video link] My question is on behalf of Senator Roberts, and it's for Senator Colbeck, representing the health minister. Despite having over 63 per cent of Israel's population vaccinated with both Pfizer dozes, on Monday Israel recorded 3,372 new COVID cases, up from fewer than 300 a little over a month ago—an 11-fold surge. The effect of COVID vaccinations may be wearing off, with studies in Israel on the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccinations showing it is only 39 per cent effective. Pfizer recently admitted that immunity from its two-dose vaccine is waning and will seek FDA authorisation for a third booster dose. Randomised, controlled trials show no evidence of the provisionally approved vaccines having any prolonged efficiency. Minister, do you agree or acknowledge these facts? If not, then what is the vaccine efficiency? (Time expired)
Thanks, Senator Hanson, for the question. The concept of requirement for booster vaccines is something that the government has had as a part of its strategy for a considerable period of time.
As you would be aware, the Moderna vaccine has recently been approved. A proportion of it is under consideration for utilisation as a booster dose. The fact is that this is a new virus. The vaccines for the virus are new. The life of the vaccine and the period that antibodies are retained in the human body was always a question, so the concept of a booster vaccine has always been something that we've been considering. We have plentiful supplies in our vaccine supply strategy for that.
As we see the evidence that comes from these other jurisdictions that have higher vaccination rates and have vaccinated before us, we will clearly consider that information and we will incorporate the learnings from that into our mechanisms for the continuation of the vaccination rollout, whether that be with the Moderna dose or whether that be a variant of the vaccines that are being proposed, considered and developed by a number of other vaccine manufacturers. So the concept of requiring a booster vaccine is not a new one. It is something the government has always been considering. It already sits as a part of our considerations. Once we get to the stage of understanding that better through the evidence that we are receiving from other jurisdictions around the world, the requirements for that and the operation of that— (Time expired)
I acknowledge your comments, but the fact is we don't know how often the vaccine is going to have to be administered. Can you give the people any indication of how often that vaccine will have to be administered and at whose cost? Every time it is administered, is that at a cost to the taxpayers?
[by video link] At this point in time the government is running a national vaccination program that provides access to a vaccine to every Australian who wants it. That is the program we are running. It may very well be that the vaccination program needs to continue for a period of time until we get to the stage where we have, at a global level, dealt with this virus. There are some questions that we don't know the answers to. If you had spoken to anyone six months ago, the concept of the delta variant and the effect it is having across the world, as you've quite rightly stated in your question, was clearly not understood. The virus continues to mutate. We are not going to understand in advance what those mutations might be. We have to be prepared to move quickly to adapt to those things as they continues to evolve. So the vaccination program will go for a considerable period of time, and the taxpayers— (Time expired)
If we are dealing with the delta strain now, what is the government's plan moving forward if this delta strain changes into another strain? What is your plan moving forward with that? Can you assure the people about the vaccinations they're being given now? Indications from Israel are that they haven't got the same immunity rate. What is your plan to move forward and deal with the next strain that comes through?
I thank Senator Hanson for her question. We will continue to follow the latest science in the development of vaccines globally to ensure that we can offer Australians safe and efficacious vaccines. That's what we've done with the program that we have underway right now. As you have heard many times in this chamber, we continue to expand both the volume of each vaccine that we have and the availability of different types of vaccines. I am sure that the medical fraternity will continue to do as they have done over the last 18 months, which is continue to research the new variants of the virus as they evolve and emerge, and they will continue to adapt the vaccines to deal with those. We are very fortunate in this country right now that we have access to very good vaccines that are safe and provide protection against death, hospitalisation and serious illness.