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The COVID-19 vaccines Australians can’t get yet

Key Points
  • The Therapeutic Good Administration approved two updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna in early October.
  • The vaccines are already available in the United States, with the EU and UK’s drug regulators also approving them.
  • The Australian Technical Advisory Group will further assess the vaccines before they’re made available in Australia.
Australians could soon learn whether updated COVID-19 vaccines will be added to the national rollout, the health department has signalled.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved two updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna in early October. , an offshoot of the highly transmissible Omicron SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — variant.
The updated vaccines are already available in the United States after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved them . When doing so, it announced that bivalent vaccines — that , the latest of which are currently available here — would no longer be “authorised for use”.

The European Union and United Kingdom’s drug regulators also granted approvals around the same time.

Why aren’t the new vaccines available yet?

While the TGA has approved the updated monovalent vaccines, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Aged Care said this was only one step in the process of making a vaccine publicly available.
They said the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) would further assess the vaccines.
“ATAGI is expected to provide advice to the Minister for Health and Aged Care on the potential use of XBB vaccines in the coming week,” the spokesperson said.

“Any updated ATAGI advice, including availability of XBB vaccines, will be communicated with providers and the public as soon as possible.”

The spokesperson said while the vaccines might already be available in some parts of the world, drugmakers did not always seek regulatory approval at the same time worldwide “which also leads to different approval and rollout timelines globally”.
The most recent as well as the ancestral Wuhan strain. The shift back to monovalent vaccines made sense, said Dr Paul Griffin, because they offered better protection against the prevailing Omicron XBB sub-variants.

“So while XBB.1.5 might not be the dominant sub-variant at the moment, the sub-variants that have come into existence are quite closely related to it,” said Griffin, an infectious disease physician who works at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, the University of Queensland, and research organisation the Nucleus Network.

He said some early studies suggest that the updated vaccines offer “good protection” against a new variant — — and EG.5.1, dubbed “Eris” which is a descendant of XBB.1.9.2.
Griffin said the FDA’s decision to scrap the bivalent vaccines was normal. A similar process would happen in Australia once the new monovalent vaccines are available, he said, and stressed the bivalent vaccines are safe.
“Once an improved version is available, we make sure we don’t use an old version because there’s a better option available,” he said.
The Department of Health and Aged Care spokesperson said the currently available vaccines “continue to provide good protection against serious illness and death”.

Australia in its next COVID wave

. While COVID-19 cases were once a key indicator, testing and reporting have been scaled back, with experts instead pointing to increases in COVID-related hospital admissions and antiviral prescriptions.
Some expect it to be the . Professor Catherine Bennett, Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology, said we typically see winter and summer waves, and the latter was generally less severe.

“The summer waves tend to be, thankfully, not as impactful as winter waves,” Bennett said. “So when we have our winter waves, we don’t fare as well as some of the countries in the northern hemisphere in the summer, and the reverse will hopefully happen now.”

The Department of Health and Aged Care spokesperson said that between 9 October to 5 November, Australia’s genomic surveillance system AusTrakka — which public health laboratories across the country use to share their genetic sequencing data — reported that 84 per cent of sequences belonged to the XBB sub-lineage, with EG.5.1. the main sequence identified.

Do I need a COVID booster?

ATAGI recommends a 2023 COVID-19 booster dose for all adults aged 65 years and older, and those aged between 18 and 64 with medical comorbidities or complex health needs.
It says adults aged between 18 and 64, and children aged between 5 and 17 at risk of severe illness, should “consider” rolling up their sleeves.

It says the booster shot should be administered at least 6 months after their last dose or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/the-covid-19-vaccines-australians-cant-get-yet/ueac5puue The COVID-19 vaccines Australians can’t get yet

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