1: How will we know which version of the COVID-19 vaccine is the best?
The best vaccine is one that is safe, effective, and consistent. Ideal vaccines are also optimised for use in a variety of settings, with features like thermal stability, low cost, easy administration, more doses per vial, and the ability to rapidly scale up production processes.
Before any vaccine is available to the public it must endure rigorous testing. The effectiveness and safety of the various COVID-19 vaccines in development is determined by national regulating bodies such as Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The World Health Organization (WHO) is also reviewing the COVID-19 vaccines as part of their pre-qualification process.
Current evidence indicates that the Pfizer vaccine is more effective overall in preventing COVID-19 disease than the AstraZeneca vaccine, but information about the various vaccines continues to evolve as more data become available.
2: Who should be vaccinated first?
People who have the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 should be the first to receive the vaccine, no matter where they live. This includes:
- healthcare workers at high risk of becoming infected and transmitting the disease, and
- those at significantly higher risk of developing severe disease or death, including those who are immunocompromised and the elderly.
When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, leaders around the world overwhelmingly agreed to collaborate internationally to end the pandemic for all. Unfortunately, as vaccines have become available, leaders of wealthy countries have deepened the divide with poorer countries by locking up vaccines for their own populations, allowing them to vaccinate low-risk individuals while many countries remain unable to vaccinate those most at risk, like health workers. Ultimately this approach is not only inequitable, but will prolong the pandemic for all.
WHO’s equitable allocation framework for COVID-19 vaccines states that three per cent of the world’s most at-risk groups must be immunised first before high-income countries like Australia start vaccinating the wider community.