The federal government’s vaccine rollout has been beset by a lack of transparency and poor communication, causing concern for experts, doctors’ groups, patients, state governments and aged care providers.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Tuesday committed to more transparency, saying there was no reason “figures can’t be done on a more regular basis” than the weekly release currently in place.
“It is a good idea for us to have more data transparency on these issues and that is what we will be discussing with the premiers and chief ministers on Friday,” he said.
So, what is it we currently don’t know?
1. The volume produced by local manufacturing
This is a critical question. Australia’s vaccine strategy is heavily dependant on local manufacturing of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Yet, we currently do not know how many doses CSL is manufacturing per day or per week.
Morrison has previously said it was making about 900,000 per week. That figure is wrong, according to CSL.
The acting chief medical officer, Prof Michael Kidd, was unable to answer the question on Monday during a press conference. “So, I can’t actually give you the figures. But we’re happy to check those and get them to you out of session there,” he said.
Follow-up questions from the Guardian have not yet yielded a response. Morrison said on Tuesday he was hoping for 800,000 per week but it would be misleading to provide current averages because it was too early in the manufacturing program.
On Wednesday, Morrison said CSL had already demonstrated the capacity to produce more than 800,000 per week.
“And that’s what I believe at least is achievable going forward and we would like to achieve more than that,” he said.
2. Detail on location and sector-specific vaccination
This has been a key complaint of state governments. They say the federal government has given insufficient data to them about how many doses they are getting – or how many vaccines have been administered in various regions. The New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, has previously complained of not even knowing which aged care facilities in his state had received the jab.
The federal government’s publicly available data only breaks the numbers down by state and territory. No more granular detail is available.
Video: Reports government has changed vaccination plans for aged care staff (Sky News Australia)
The government also only released broad categories of sector-specific data. It will say, for example, how many aged and disability care residents in total have received the vaccination, but not how many aged care staff, or how many disability care residents specifically.
This is despite previous statements that the Australian government was developing detailed and sophisticated tracking systems for the vaccine rollout.
3. The number of doses currently available in Australia
We currently only know the total number of vaccinations that have been administered. We do not know how many doses are in Australia’s possession, either by virtue of imports or local manufacturing, though the health department secretary, Prof Brendan Murphy, told the ABC on Tuesday that Australia was receiving about 100,000 Pfizer vaccines per week.
The Australian Medical Association has previously called for the commonwealth to be transparent and provide data on how many vaccines have been supplied, compared with how many have been administered.
Morrison on Tuesday did reveal 3.1m doses had not arrived from overseas as expected.
On Wednesday, Murphy said there were no doses being held back in storage, except for reserves of second doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“That’s to be absolutely clear – there is nothing sitting in a cupboard other than something that we’re planning to give three weeks later as a second dose,” he said.
4. The extent of wastage in the vaccine rollout
We currently have no data on the wastage of vaccines, either before or after the vial is opened. Pre-opening wastage is usually a result of poor storage or transportation. But vials can also be wasted due to missed appointments or improper injection.
In past vaccine rollouts, the World Health Organisation reports a roughly 50% wastage rate, though that is largely in developing countries. Experts have told the ABC that the government should add roughly 20% to its supplies to account for wastage.
Yet, the government has not provided any data on the current level of wastage experienced in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. That’s despite previously saying it was receiving “daily reports on wastage from vaccination providers”.
5. Access to the third vaccine – the Novavax vaccine
Australia has ordered 51m doses of the Novavax vaccine, enough supply to cover Australia’s entire population.
Yet we still do not know precisely when this vaccine will become available.
The government said it would “be available in Australia as early as the first half of 2021”.
That deadline is fast approaching. But the vaccine is yet to finish clinical trials and still needs to be approved by the TGA.
The Novavax will also require manufacturing in Europe, posing the potential for a similar disruption to imports as experienced with AstraZeneca.
6. Herd immunity and minimum coverage
We have not yet been given any concept of what level of coverage is required to achieve herd immunity.
Back in August 2020, Morrison said he was aiming to have 95% of the population receive the jab.
But since then, the government has not nominated a specific figure. On Monday, the health department told the Guardian it wanted to “vaccinate all Australians who wish to be vaccinated”, but would not provide a number for herd immunity.
Experts believe herd immunity could require between 65%-90% of the population to be vaccinated. Neither the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines have been approved for use in children.
Source: Thanks msn.com