Minister backs AstraZeneca virus vaccine | Ralph-Lauren

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The Morrison government has backed the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine despite concerns it is not effective in combating a concerning mutant strain.

South Africa suspended its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the country’s new strain of the virus.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has downplayed concerns, citing the latest UK data.

“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“That is the fundamental task to protect the health of not just Australians, but people all around the world.”

AstraZeneca is working with developers at Oxford University to try to adapt the vaccine to the South African strain, but the process could take several months.

Australia is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine within weeks and has more than 50 million doses on order, with the vast majority to be produced locally.

Australians will receive a certificate to prove they have been vaccinated when the national rollout begins.

Certificates proving vaccination, which could be required for overseas and interstate travel, would then be available either digitally or as a hard copy.

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney cast doubt on the government’s ability to manage a vaccination passport given previous IT blunders.

“There are issues around the capacity of the government to be able to do this properly,” she told the ABC on Monday.

“When there is a proposal or legislation in front of the parliament, (Labor will) be looking at it very carefully.”

Ms Burney said the first priority should be the protection of personal medical information.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly continues to defy the prime minister who asked him to stop posting about unproven coronavirus treatments last week.

“Supporting medical experts right to discuss treatment with ivermectin is not anti-vax,” he said on Facebook.

The drug’s manufacturer Merck has warned against using the anti-parasitic in coronavirus patients, noting the lack of meaningful evidence and a concerning lack of safety data in studies.

“We do not believe that the data available support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information,” the company said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has officially directed former senator David Leyonhjelm to take down posts advertising ivermectin or risk court action.

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