The Australian Government intends to roll out up to three COVID-19 vaccines, with two already available (Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca). These vaccines are expected to be safe for most Australians and to offer good protection against current virus strains. GPs are integral in the Government’s vaccine roll-out strategy.
This article was accurate at the time of last review (24 March 2021) and includes updates on thrombosis risk to 6 April 2021. However, as information in this area is rapidly evolving, the authors and publisher refer readers to the ATAGI and Australian Government websites for the most up-to-date information.
- The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax are expected to be safe for most Australians and to offer protection against COVID-19.
- Children aged under 16 years and patients with known allergy to vaccine components should not receive the vaccines.
- Older people and people with stable medical comorbidities are recommended to be vaccinated.
- Pregnant women may be counselled with the assistance of decision aids, and patients with significant immunosuppression should refer to subspecialty consensus guidelines.
- GPs are integral to the vaccination roll-out process, which began in February 2021.
- Suspected adverse vaccine events should be reported to the TGA.
More than 100 million cases of COVID-19, the acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), have been reported globally. Even in Australia, where the pandemic has been reasonably well controlled, there have been more than 20,000 cases and more than 900 deaths. A successful vaccination strategy holds the promise of reducing the extraordinary medical, social and financial costs that COVID-19 has created worldwide.
More than 200 COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development. In Australia, three main vaccines are likely to be used. At the time of writing, two of these have received provisional TGA approval: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty) and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (ChAdOx1 or AZD1222, also known as COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).1,2 Novavax’s vaccine (NVX-CoV2373) is also likely to gain TGA approval.3 This article discusses the safety, efficacy and use of these vaccines and the Australian Government’s vaccination roll-out strategy.
The Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines all utilise the SARS-COV-2 ‘spike’ proteins as their core immunogenic target.4-6 Spike proteins are virus-specific surface proteins that allow SARS-COV-2 to fuse with and enter host cells.6 The vaccines aim to prime the immune system to recognise the SARS-COV-2 spike proteins and thus prevent overwhelming infection.