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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Experts urge vigilance and updated vaccination for endemic Covid-19

Health Industry Hub | November 23, 2023 |

Amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, health experts are issuing a crucial warning to Australians, emphasising the importance of remaining vigilant and ensuring their vaccination status is up to date. The recent insights from leading health authorities shed light on the evolving nature of the pandemic and the necessity for updated strategies to combat it effectively.

Associate Professor James Trauer, Head of the Epidemiological Modelling Unit for the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, underscored the significance of vaccination as a pivotal defense against COVID-19.

“Vaccination remains our most important defence against COVID, even though the virus shouldn’t ruin Christmas this year,” he stated.

Concerns have risen due to a significant wave of transmission in Australia. Associate Professor Trauer highlighted the limitations of relying solely on daily case numbers, pointing out the decline in testing and the need to consider alternative data sources such as wastewater surveillance and hospital admissions to gauge the true extent of transmission.

“While the severity of COVID cases has decreased with fewer ICU admissions, this is attributable to high levels of population immunity derived from both natural infection and vaccination,” Associate Professor Trauer explained.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) released an updated statement on the COVID-19 Vaccination Program, endorsing the efficacy of currently available vaccines. Pfizer welcomed this update, particularly emphasising the preference for specific monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines for children aged 5 years or older and adults requiring primary or additional doses.

Dr Krishan Thiru, Pfizer Australia & New Zealand Country Medical Director, stressed the necessity of new tools to combat the constantly evolving COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is constantly evolving, and XBB is antigenically distant to the original Omicron variants we have seen before. This is why we need new tools to fight the virus,” he stated.

As COVID-19 has evolved into an endemic infection, Associate Professor Trauer highlighted the cyclic nature of transmission due to waning immunity post-infection.

“This means that the infection cannot be eliminated and transmission occurs continuously. When immunity after infection is short-lived, endemic transmission occurs in peaks and troughs as immunity from previous waves fades. This is an expected feature of endemic Covid,” he explained.

Associate Professor Trauer added “The emergence of new variants is also contributing to these ebbs and flows. Although a few current variants are being closely watched, none of the currently circulating strains seem to cause more severe disease than the preceding strains. Because new variants are contributing significantly to each wave of infection, it is more difficult than ever before to predict when they will peak.

“Because immunity after infection is so short-lived, reducing transmission in the short-term will have little effect on the number of times people get infected with Covid over the course of several years. Therefore, our most important protection against the effects of Covid is immunity, which can be enhanced through vaccination.”

Dr Thiru reinforced the need for continued vigilance and adherence to health guidelines, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

“The first line of defence is to get vaccinated, wear masks when needed, maintain physical distance, avoid high-risk settings, and practice good hygiene,” he stressed.

Pfizer is actively collaborating with the Australian Government to expedite vaccine supply in response to the escalating situation.

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