Australia is set up to vaccinate approximately five million people a year through its national immunisation program, compared to the 25 million people who will need a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine would need to be administered to as many people as possible within a short period of time, ideally a few months.
The Australian College of Nursing is lobbying the federal government for funding to train an additional 10,000 immunisers and upskill a further 50,000 to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. Chief executive Kylie Ward said immunisers must undertake annual training to remain up-to-date with vaccines. ‘‘You could have any number of immunisers in the country but until they have done the updated courses to support coronavirus and the vaccination for that, then they wouldn’t be able to give it anyway,’’ she said.
Also, any vaccine must be safe, which can take years to test and achieve as the last thing anyone wants is allowing Antivaxxers to erode public confidence. There will also be a need for booster shots, or will its effectiveness wear off after just a few years? These are important questions yet to be answered after all this is about saving lives and protecting lives.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had a ‘‘world-class’’ vaccination system and its supply chain distributed a record 17.6 million doses of the flu vaccine in 2020. The federal government recently struck a $1.7 billion agreement with the University of Oxford/ AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL which will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses.
AMA President Dr Khorshid said that, while there is optimism that one of the 150-plus vaccines and treatments in trial around the world might succeed, it will be some time before any of them are widely available.“Governments and the community must also contemplate the potential scenario where a vaccine is not found, and the available treatments continue to offer supportive care as opposed to a cure,” Dr Khorshid said.
We know from the Spanish Flu that this might mean living with the virus for two to three years before the pandemic comes to an end, although we still have much to learn about COVID-19 and its long term impact.