The country’s top medical minds have cancelled their summer holidays to continue working on getting a COVID-19 vaccine ready for rollout.
The country’s top medical minds have cancelled their summer holidays to continue working on getting a COVID-19 vaccine ready for rollout.

Scientists working overtime to get us vaccinated

Australia's top doctors and researchers have been ordered to cancel their summer plans to ensure one or more COVID-19 vaccines are approved and ready to be rolled out by March.

The teams of vaccination specialists have been tasked with pouring over the data from multiple vaccine trials around the world to make sure anything given to Australians is safe and effective.

They will also have extra information from hundreds of thousands of people in the UK after the Pfizer vaccine was granted "emergency approval", with rollout to begin next week.

Head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration Professor John Skerritt said Aussie experts would closely monitor and learn from the UK scheme.

"[By] January, February, we actually not only will have the data from the clinical trials … but we'll also have the real world experience of several hundred thousand people having had the vaccine," Prof Skerritt said.

"That'll enable us to know whether or not it's suitable, for example, if you have multiple sclerosis and certain conditions.

"It'll actually improve the quality of the advice that we can give for Australians."

Prof Skerritt said he had told his staff to "put away their swimsuits" ahead of a long summer of work before they hope to approve one or more jabs by early February.

Scott Morrison said the benefit of Australia's relatively stable virus situation when compared with the horrors experienced elsewhere meant there was no need to rush.

"We are in a very strong position and that enables us to get this right, to get the balance right, to ensure first and foremost the safety, which enables us to then roll out the vaccine successfully across the country," the Prime Minister said.

Frontline workers and the elderly are expected to be among the first to receive any approved jabs.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed discussions were also underway to get a group of federal politicians from both sides jabbed quickly in a show of confidence.

"None of us want to be jumping the queue but nor do we want to show any lack of confidence," Mr Hunt said.

He said they would not be treated "as a class" but instead a group of high-profile volunteers would be the first injected to demonstrate safety.

"I would be very happy to take any vaccine that the medical regulators deemed safe for Australia," Mr Hunt said.

Mr Morrison agreed, saying he was "happy to take the jab".

Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said Labor would work with Mr Hunt as part of efforts to counteract anti-vaxxers.

"We certainly agreed in principle that there was a case for some politicians, some decision-makers, some opinion leaders in Parliament House to get the vaccine to show that we have confidence in the TGA … and to show that we are more than willing to put ourselves forward and get the vaccine," Mr Bowen said.


Originally published as Scientists working overtime to get us vaccinated