Why receiving the Covid vaccination won’t prevent Aussies being forced into hotel quarantine

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Why receiving the Covid vaccination won’t prevent Aussies being forced into hotel quarantine.

By BRYANT HEVESI

The lauded Covid-19 vaccine may not be enough to end strict hotel quarantine requirements to enter Australia, amid warnings the deadly virus is here to stay.

There had been hope that locked in Australians could finally holiday overseas without having to isolate when the vaccine begins to be rolled out in February, but experts fear this is unlikely.

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said she is yet to see any evidence an inoculated individual could enter Australia without the risk of spreading the virus.

Vaccines help the body fight a virus, but generally don’t stop it being transmissible or people catching it in the first place.

‘I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on,’ Dr Swaminathan told The Sydney Morning Herald.

She said there needs to be an assumption those vaccinated ‘also need to take the same precautions till there’s a certain level of herd immunity’.

The coronavirus vaccine may not be enough to end Australia's strict hotel quarantine program, the World Health Organization has warned (pictured, Stephen Hartley is given his Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in York, England, on December 22)

The coronavirus vaccine may not be enough to end Australia’s strict hotel quarantine program, the World Health Organization has warned.

It had been hoped the vaccination program would allow locked in Australians to travel overseas again (pictured, passengers travelling through Brisbane Airport last week)

The WHO says even with an effective vaccination program, there is no guarantee the virus can be eradicated.

The director of WHO’s Health Emergencies, Dr Mike Ryan, said it will likely become an endemic virus and remain a ‘very low level threat’.

‘The existence of a vaccine, even at a high efficacy, there’s no guarantee of eliminating or eradicating an infectious disease, that is a very high bar for us to be able to get over,’ he said,’ Dr Ryan said.

He added the initial focus is on saving lives and controlling the virus to allow for a return to normality before dealing with eliminating or eradicating the virus.

Australia shut its borders to the rest of the world on March 20 as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and embarked on a strategy of suppressing the virus, although some states have gone for elimination.

Mandatory hotel quarantine is in place for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families returning from overseas – while other foreigners are banned.

Scientists work on the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in Oxford. There have been 33.8 million doses secured for Australia

Scientists work on the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in Oxford. There have been 33.8 million doses secured for Australia

Australia requires citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families returning from overseas to undertake 14-days in hotel quarantine (pictured, a returnee from overseas enters a hotel quarantine facility in Melbourne this month)

Australia requires citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families returning from overseas to undertake 14-days in hotel quarantine.

They must undertake 14 days quarantine in a supervised facility, which they are charged around $3,000 for.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday most Australians will be vaccinated against coronavirus by October.

Mr Hunt said the first vaccine to be approved in late January will likely be the Pfizer jab which is already being rolled out the United States, United Kingdom and European Union.

The AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines are expected to be approved by Australian regulators shortly after, with the first jabs hitting Aussie arms before March.

WHICH VACCINES HAS AUSTRALIA SECURED? 

Pfizer:

Due to arrive early 2021, but is already being rolled out in the UK and has been approved for us in Canada.

Australia secured a deal for 10 million doses, if it proves safe and effective and is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Each person would need two doses, meaning Australia’s initial order would only cover five million Australians.

Novavax:

Australia has ordered 40 million doses but it is still in the trial phase.

An extra 11 million doses were ordered on Friday, taking the total to 51 million. 

University of Oxford:

There have been 33.8 million doses secured for Australia. It is still in the trial phase. 20 million more doses have now been ordered, taking the total to 53.8 million.

University of Queensland:

Australia had ordered 51 million doses. However, the deal has been scrapped after trial participants returned false positive results for HIV.

Vaccinations have been touted as the key to Australians finally flying abroad again, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously saying any travellers would need to either have the jab or face two weeks of hotel quarantine.

‘Where people have the choice of two weeks of quarantine or being vaccinated, I think that will be an incentive, unless there is a genuine medical reason,’ Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison compared coronavirus to yellow fever, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

Under federal law anyone entering from a country with yellow fever without a jab can be placed under ‘quarantine surveillance’ which does not restrict their movement but requires them to seek assessment from a doctor if they develop symptoms of yellow fever.

‘When there has been yellow fever and things like that there is a requirement that people are vaccinated, and if they’re not, there is a requirement to quarantine on entry into Australia,’ Mr Morrison said.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan (pictured), the WHO's chief scientist, said she did not believe there is evidence from any of the vaccines yet that they are going to prevent a person getting infected

Nurse Practitioner Terri Welch administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the Haxby and Wigginton Group Medical Practice in Haxby, northern England

Mr Hunt said jabs could even begin in late February if they are bottled, labelled, checked and delivered around the country by then.

‘Our goal is always underpromise, overdeliver,’ he said when asked if the jabs could be rolled out earlier than the current March time frame.

He added: ‘We expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, on the basis that it’s free, universal, and it’s entirely voluntary’.

Mr Hunt said the first people to get vaccinated will be health and medical workers, elderly aged care residents and front-line workers in the quarantine scheme.

More than 117 million doses to cover Australia’s 26 million people have been secured by the federal government.

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