SYDNEY (REUTERS) - New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, recorded one local coronavirus case on Wednesday (Jan 13) as the country's doctors sought to pause the roll-out of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, saying it might not be effective in establishing herd immunity.
The opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia's immunisation drive, as the AstraZeneca jab is the centrepiece of the Australian government's immunisation plan, and 53 million doses are already on hand.
"The question is really whether it will be able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don't know how long that will take," said Professor Stephen Turner, the president of the Australian and NZ Society for Immunology.
Turner added that the government must pivot towards getting more of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The concern stems from testing of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which some shown it to be less effective than the other two.
Australia has 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, though neither AstraZeneca nor Pfizer have approval from the country's drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Australia's chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, attempted to thwart the concerns around its efficacy, telling the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) the AstraZeneca jab was "effective", "safe" and of "high quality".
"The great advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it's being made here in Australia," Kelly said. "It will be available as soon as the TGA gives its tick, which we expect that it will in February."
Kelly said Australia will have more data by February as well as "real-world information" coming from London, which has already rolled out the vaccine.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Australia has been more successful than many other countries in managing the pandemic, with total infections in the country of 25 million people at about 28,600, with 909 deaths.
Its success is largely attributable to border closings and widespread compliance with social-distancing rules, along with aggressive testing and tracing programmes.
Victoria and Queensland states recorded no community cases overnight.