By Ben Wilson
Controversy has surrounded the Morrison government’s choice of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to tackle the Coronavirus19. The problem is not only that it has not been tested in the field enough to guarantee immunity and guarantee safety form harmful side effects. This is bad enough. It is also fact that politics has got in the way.
Australia’s government has joined in the club to prevent proper global cooperation to fight a global pandemic. Scott Morrison borrowed Donald Trump’s line about the China Virus, at a time when hundreds of thousands had already died and the world needed to put heads together to take on a crisis that knows no politics and affects everyone.
As it happens, a range of countries have developed possible vaccines. Some of them more than one. The smart thing to do, would have been to pull researchers together, get the best and distribute to all nations without prejudice. The only priority should have been to get it to those spots most heavily infected first. This approach would have protected all of us and not left the poorest out of the race.
It would have been a wonderful lesson in human cooperation. Instead, we get hoarding and attempts by pharmaceutical companies to use their influence to corner the market. It’s worth billions to them.
This is what has left Australia mostly with one option – AstraZeneca.
Al the spin in the world has not prevented criticism and this is becoming louder.
Zoe Hyde, an epidemiologist at the University of Western Australia said, “I don’t think Australia has managed to secure enough vaccines to be comfortable, we really do need to diversify our vaccine portfolio”.
Trails have shown that AstraZeneca is effective in as few as 62 percent of cases, providing a major opportunity to the infection to keep on spreading.
The rationalisation for saying this is all right, is the argument about herd immunity. Unfortunately, there remains much about this infection that we don’t yet understand, and there is no guarantee that herd immunity is possible.
The comeback is that Australia has already agreed to purchase the American based Pfizer Novavax. It is claimed that this vaccine has a higher percentage of effectiveness. But this is based on a ridiculously small trial of just 8 people and a lot of hype. We just don’t know how effective it is.
There are other options. The leading three are China’s Sinovac, Sinoparm, and CasinSinoBIO. This is followed by United States Johnson and Johnson’s NYSE and Moderna. Germany has biotech and Russia Sputnik-5.
We must accept that all the vaccines require another year of testing. By then enough data to give much better picture should be available. The problem is that the world doesn’t have the luxury to wait, and some level of risk must be taken to save many lives. of waiting so long does not exist, and the world is forced into taking some risk.
We can accept this. We should also want to minimise the risk. The only way to do this, is to have all the options available. Total reliance on two shows a prejudice that could kill many Australians.
Another factor is that the reseach and therefore the vaccines are coming from different angles. They are virus, protein, or nucleic based. We don’t know yet, which approach is most effective.
Most of the world is not so stupid to take the Australian approach. Hoarding vaccination supplies by a few nations is another factor helping to get the other options out there. Chinese vaccines are going to many countries, especially poorer ones, with the added bonus that they are cheaper. Especially the poorer ones.
Other options have not even been looked at. Total reliance on them shows a prejudice that could kill many Australians.
There should be access to all options. But politics and the wish of pharmaceutical companies to establish a monopoly over the vaccination process gets in the way.
Another reason for the need for a broad range of vaccinations, is that the virus is already mutating and there will be more mutations. There are already at least three variants. It means, what might be effective one day is not effective the next day.
We deserve a better deal form out political leaders.