A quick thought on Australia and COVID-19 vaccines

(Alex’s note: I originally wrote this as a Facebook post, but my personal FB profile is rather locked down for privacy reasons, and I’m seeing this knock around social media in Australia a LOT today. I’m not a science writer per se, but I feel this is pretty important, so I’m reposting it here)

Seeing more than a few friends complaining about the Australian government’s use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, quoting efficacy rates much lower than of the Pfizer/Moderna ones.

Look, you’re not *wrong*… but you’re also (as per my current understanding) not exactly *right* either. The AZ vaccine has a stated lower efficacy at stopping infection in the first place as it’s currently understood, yes.

However, that’s with the science in flux — as more and more people get the vaccine it’s easier to see the real rates of efficacy, with some trials suggesting it could be as high as 90%. General goal for these things is reportedly 50% or better, so it’s already passed that without trouble.

In any case, what’s currently understood about the AZ vaccine is that it’s near 100% effective at stopping COVID progressing to a point where it imperils life. So in other words you *might* catch COVID-19, it’s nowhere near as likely to off you. That’s still a big benefit, I’d argue!

In ANY case, for those folks complaining about the “better” vaccines, there’s also the stark reality that we’re in a LUCKY country — and for once that’s not just blind patriotic jingoism at play!

Our infection rates are insanely low, as are our fatality rates, so the absolute *need* for vaccination here is nowhere near as stark as they are overseas.

To beat this as a SPECIES (not just as Australians) we actually need the rest of the world that’s being hammered right now to get vaccinated *first*.

In that scenario, we (more or less) act like the folks who actually can’t take vaccines for legit medical reasons, benefiting from the immunity of the wider group as we wait for further scientific developments. I’d much rather save lives overseas that WILL be lost than shout and scream about a vaccine that most of us RIGHT NOW don’t need as urgently.

To give that some mathematical comparison, in Australia sadly 909 people have passed away due to COVID-19 in the near year’s worth of the pandemic. That’s the figure for 12 full months, more or less.

In the USA on the 12th of January 2021, 4,056 people died because of COVID-19.

In just one day.

Within that context, I’d say we can wait and thank our luck.

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