No plans to follow UK on early vaccine

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has great confidence in the TGA to assess vaccine safety.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has great confidence in the TGA to assess vaccine safety.

Health authorities expect to have high-quality advice on coronavirus vaccines to give to the Australian public early in 2021.

But Australia won't be following Britain's decision to use emergency powers to roll out vaccines from next week.

While Australia has COVID-19 largely under control through testing, contact tracing and isolation, the UK recorded more than 16,000 cases this week and more than 600 deaths.

This sparked the UK government to allow pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to supply its vaccine, starting with the elderly and health care workers, using emergency powers which Australia does not have.

Therapeutic Goods Administration head Professor John Skerritt said he was hopeful to be in a position to approve at least one vaccine in early 2021, using clinical trial data and the knowledge gained in Britain's rollout.

"Let's say come late January or February, we actually not only will have the data for the clinical trials of 10,000 to 40,000 -- depending on the type of trial -- people, but we'll also have the real-world experience of several hundred thousand people having had the vaccine," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he has great confidence in the TGA to assess vaccine safety.

Prof Skerritt said three companies had made submissions to Australia but none had submitted final safety and effectiveness data.

"Any one of those three companies could be the first one to get to the finishing line," he said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech is one of the vaccines which is subject to an Australian agreement.

The treatment is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses only the virus' genetic code and not weakened forms of the virus as conventional vaccines do.

Meanwhile, five international flights will land at Melbourne airport on Monday as Victoria's revamped hotel quarantine program restarts for overseas travellers.

Unlike the previous much-criticised program, it will be overseen by a special agency and involve no private security guards.

NSW is racing to trace and test contacts of a coronavirus-infected hotel quarantine worker, whose diagnosis ended that state's 26-day run without an infection in the community.

Western Australia is now having second thoughts on reopening to NSW from December 8.

Premier Mark McGowan said there was not enough information to make a decision but he expected to get more in coming days.

Australian Associated Press