Australia not rushing to approve virus jab

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the UK's approval of a vaccine is
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the UK's approval of a vaccine is "an important step for the world".

Australia's medicines regulator will wait for more data before approving a coronavirus vaccine despite the UK's move to start delivering jabs from next week.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been given a fast-tracked green light to supply its vaccine with the most vulnerable people to receive the first doses.

Therapeutic Goods Administration head Professor John Skerritt said it was important to note Britain's decision was an emergency authorisation rather than full approval.

"The situation is very much an emergency in the UK and I can understand totally why they are moving earlier, even with the greater uncertainty," he said.

He said while the British would know less about potential adverse side effects, the soaring death toll meant the country was moving faster.

The Australian government is hoping for a March rollout of the first vaccine after regulatory approval is granted.

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

"It's a three-horse race at the moment and any one of those three companies could be the first one to get to the finishing line," he said.

He expects approval in January and February provided all information is handed to the TGA in December.

The Pfizer-BioNTech is one of four coronavirus vaccines the federal government has deals for.

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.

Prof Skerritt is confident "sophisticated eskies" will allow the Pfizer vaccine to be transported to even the most remote parts of Australia if approved.

"These don't just keep the beer cold but they keep the vaccine down at dry ice temperature, they are able to be refilled twice," he said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said rolling out a vaccine by mid-2021 could deliver a $34 billion boost to Australia's economy.

He welcomed Britain's approval of a vaccine but says the decision will not fast-track its approval in Australia.

"Obviously, their situation is somewhat different to Australia's. They've had more than a million infections, nearly 60,000 deaths," he told the ABC.

"If the vaccine is found to be safe and effective, then it will be rolled out by March."

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday introduced a bill making it mandatory for providers to report the details of all vaccinations, including COVID-19, and put them on a national register.

Meanwhile, a woman who works in a Sydney quarantine hotel has been diagnosed with coronavirus, sparking concerns about potential transmission.

The NSW government expects more cases however the woman's five family members tested negative overnight.

Australian Associated Press