- Victoria is hoping to reach its seventh consecutive day without a new locally acquired case. NSW recorded five new cases of community transmission yesterday, while Queensland had one.
- Sydneysiders will be waiting weeks for the Victorian border to reopen, while human rights lawyers have called on the Victorian government to explain why thousands of people stranded for almost a fortnight in NSW’s COVID-19 hotspots cannot return and quarantine at home.
- Some scientists say the Australian government should immediately pause the planned rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity.
- Pressure about the border issue is set to increase from tomorrow, when 1200 tennis players and officials from around the world start to arrive in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open while some residents remain locked out.
- As many as eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 from a human handler after one of the animals tested positive, marking the first known transmission of the virus to apes.
How vaccines are made
Last year, science reporter Liam Mannix examined the global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
At the time, scientists at the University of Queensland were working on a molecular clamp vaccine. They were forced to abandon their efforts late last year after several trial participants returned false positive HIV test results.
The virus responsible for COVID-19, isolated from the first Australian coronavirus case and captured in this colorised transmission electron micrograph image.Credit:CSIRO
Now, there is doubt about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the centrepiece of Australia's immunisation strategy. Australia has ordered enough AstraZeneca doses for 26.9 million people.
You can revisit Liam's explainer, here.
Scientists call for pause on AstraZeneca vaccine rollout
Let's take a closer look at the story dominating headlines this morning – the call to immediately pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology says the government should pause the planned AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine rollout because it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity. Clinical trials show the vaccine, which is the centrepiece of Australia's immunisation strategy, is 62 per cent effective when the recommended two doses are given, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95 per cent effective.
Ian Cormack prepares to receive a dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Edinburgh, Scotland, this month.Credit:Getty Images
"The AstraZeneca vaccine is not one I would be deploying widely, because of that lower efficacy," said Immunology Society president Professor Stephen Turner, pictured above by Joe Armao. "But it could be used as a tool to blunt the effect of COVID until [more effective] vaccines could be deployed." Other scientists told The Age the government should focus on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. "Why would we settle for the second-best option?" asked Dr Andrew Miller, president of the Australian Medical Association's Western Australia branch.
Despite concerns over its effectiveness, there are no questions about the safety of the vaccine. And of the people given the jab who still contracted the virus, none developed a serious or life-threatening illness. Australia has ordered enough AstraZeneca doses for 26.9 million people, Pfizer jabs for 5 million people and no Moderna vaccines. However, it remains unproven if any of the vaccines prevent transmission. Inoculated people may still pass the virus on to others even if they don't get infected themselves, which is partly why scientists say establishing herd immunity with a high vaccination rate is crucial to eliminating the virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken recently about wanting to maximise confidence in the vaccine, suggesting he would get one on live TV. But chief political correspondent David Crowe argues the PM must call out the misinformation being spread within his own ranks by the likes of backbencher Craig Kelly, who has pushed conspiracies and called masks "child abuse". The Australian Medical Association has called for investment in long-term internet advertising to counter COVID-19 and anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories, warning social media can "significantly magnify health misinformation campaigns".
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Front pages of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
Here's what is making front-page headlines on this Wednesday:
An exclusive story from national science reporter Liam Mannix and health reporter Aisha Dow reveals the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology is calling for the federal government to immediately pause the planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity.
Meanwhile, Sydneysiders are set to be waiting weeks for the Victorian border to reopen, while human rights lawyers have called on the Victorian government to explain why thousands of people stranded for almost a fortnight in NSW’s COVID-19 hotspots cannot return and quarantine at home.
Global cases pass 91.2 million
Today, the global tally of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 91,298,760, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The number of infections worldwide has doubled in just 10 weeks – COVID-19 infections had hit 45 million as recently as late October.
You can explore our data centre below:
Welcome to Wednesday's coverage
Hello and welcome to Wednesday's live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. It's Marissa Calligeros here coming to you from Brisbane.
Yesterday, the border wars again dominated headlines while the country recorded six cases of community transmission of the virus – here's a quick recap of where we are:
- Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wouldn't be surprised if more close contacts of an infected hotel quarantine cleaner who contracted the highly contagious UK COVID-19 variant test positive in the coming days.
- Victoria recorded its sixth consecutive day without a new locally acquired case.
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the most important rule for Sydneysiders to follow at the moment is the limit on household visitors. She pleaded for more people to get tested, after five new cases of community transmission emerged.
- The ACT has partially relaxed its border restrictions for Greater Sydney, with residents of just 11 local government areas in the region to remain barred from entry to the territory.
- Coronavirus outbreaks linked to quarantine hotel breaches continue to cause chaos for interstate travellers. Sydneysiders cannot travel to Queensland or Victoria. Similarly, Victorians in Sydney or Greater Brisbane are barred from returning to their home state without an exemption.
Tuesday, as it happened: ACT border partially reopens to Greater Sydney as NSW records five new local COVID-19 cases; Victoria implements travel permit system
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