Tag: pandemic

COVID-19 BOOSTER DOSES ARE NOW AVAILABLE

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On 28 October 2021, the Australian Government announced COVID-19 vaccination booster doses for people 18 years of age and older.

Read on to find out more about the booster program, and when you can get your booster dose.

Why is there a booster program?

The COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia – Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) – are very effective at protecting people from severe disease, having to go to hospital, and death. They also have a significant impact on reducing the risk of getting COVID-19 and passing the virus on to others.
The Australian Government has started rolling out booster doses to people who completed their two-dose primary vaccination course at least six months ago.

It is important people know that two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection, especially against severe disease.
A booster dose, six or more months after the second dose, will make sure that the protection from the first doses is even stronger and longer lasting and should help prevent spread of the virus.

Do not rush to get your booster dose before six months of having your initial course, even if you are going overseas or you have other concerns. You can be confident that your two-dose course is giving you full protection for at least six months.
How do I get my COVID-19 vaccine booster dose?
COVID-19 vaccines are free to everyone in Australia. This includes booster doses.

You can go to a doctor, a government vaccination clinic, or a participating pharmacy to get your COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
To book your COVID-19 vaccine booster dose appointment, visit www.australia.gov.au, or call 1800 020 080. For interpreting services, call 131450.
If you do not remember when you had your second dose, you can find those details on your COVID-19 vaccine certificate. Go to www.servicesaustralia.gov.au for information on how to access your certificate. Or, if you received your second dose from your doctor, you can ask them.

What’s the difference between booster doses and third doses?

Australia’s immunisation experts, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), recommend a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 12 years and over who are severely immunocompromised. People who are severely immunocompromised have lower levels of immunity than the rest of the population. They need this third dose to get the same protection others will have from two doses.
Those who are eligible for a third dose should have it between two to six months after their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, as part of their initial course.
A third COVID-19 vaccine dose is different from COVID-19 booster dose. Booster doses are not currently recommended for people who are severely immunocompromised and who have had a three-dose primary course of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Where do I go for more information?

It’s important to stay informed about the COVID-19 vaccination program through reliable and official sources.
Visit www.health.gov.au/covid19-vaccines-languages for more information in your language. You can also call the National Coronavirus and COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080. For interpreting services, call 131 450.

WHO recognises COVAXIN (developed by Bharat Biotach) to fight COVID-19 pandemic

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By SAT News Desk

3 November 2021, Geneva: Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an emergency use listing (EUL) for COVAXIN® (developed by Bharat Biotech), adding to a growing portfolio of vaccines validated by WHO for the prevention of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2.

WHO’s EUL procedure assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“This emergency use listing expands the availability of vaccines, the most effective medical tools we have to end the pandemic,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. “But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of all populations, giving priority to the at-risk groups who are still waiting for their first dose, before we can start declaring victory.”

COVAXIN® was assessed under the WHO EUL procedure based on the review of data on quality, safety, efficacy, a risk management plan and programmatic suitability. The Technical Advisory Group (TAG), convened by WHO and made up of regulatory experts from around the world, has determined that the vaccine meets WHO standards for protection against COVID-19, that the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs risks and the vaccine can be used globally.

The vaccine is formulated from an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 antigen and is presented in single dose vials and multidose vials of 5, 10 and 20 doses.

COVAXIN® was also reviewed on 5 October by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which formulates vaccine specific policies and recommendations for vaccines’ use in populations (i.e. recommended age groups, intervals between doses, specific groups such as pregnant and lactating women).

The SAGE recommended use of the vaccine in two doses, with a dose interval of four weeks, in all age groups 18 and above. COVAXIN® was found to have 78% efficacy against COVID-19 of any severity, 14 or more days after the second dose, and is extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements.

Available data on vaccination of pregnant women with the vaccine are insufficient to assess vaccine safety or efficacy in pregnancy; studies in pregnant women are planned, including a pregnancy sub-study and a pregnancy registry.

WHO emergency use listing

The emergency use listing (EUL) procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality. The assessment weighs the threat posed by the emergency as well as the benefit that would accrue from the use of the product against any potential risks.

The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of late phase II and phase III clinical trial data, as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy, quality and a risk management plan. These data are reviewed by independent experts and WHO teams who consider the current body of evidence on the vaccine under consideration, the plans for monitoring its use, and plans for further studies.

As part of the EUL process, the company producing the vaccine must commit to continue to generate data to enable full licensure and WHO prequalification of the vaccine. The WHO prequalification process will assess additional clinical data generated from vaccine trials and deployment on a rolling basis to ensure the vaccine meets the necessary standards of quality, safety and efficacy for broader availability.

Source- WHO, November 3, 2021.

COVID-19 VACCINES ARE FREE AND AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE OVER 12 YEARS OF AGE

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to everyone in Australia. We have all had to make changes in our lives to keep ourselves, our family and community safe. Vaccination is a critical step to getting back to the things we love to do.

Everyone in Australia 12 years of age and over can have a free COVID 19 vaccine at participating pharmacies, doctors’ clinics, and government clinics. Read on to find out where you can get information about the COVID-19 vaccine in your language, and how to book your COVID-19 vaccination, even if you do not have a Medicare card.

The vaccines and doses recommended for Australians may be different from what is happening in other countries. It is especially important that everyone living in Australia follow the health advice given by Australia’s health experts.

Accessing translated COVID-19 resources

If you would like information about COVID-19 vaccines in your own language, visit the Australia.gov.au website. All you need to do is click on the “information in your language” and choose your own language from the 63 languages available.

How to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even without a Medicare card

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia, even if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This includes people without a Medicare card, overseas visitors, international students, migrant workers, and asylum seekers.
Everyone in Australia aged 12 years and over can book their vaccination now.

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine at:

• Commonwealth vaccination clinics.
• participating general practices.
• Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services
• state and territory vaccination clinics, and
• participating pharmacies.

If you are an overseas visitor living in Australia, an international student or anyone without Australian citizenship or permanent residency, you may not be able to access Medicare benefits. But that does not stop you from getting vaccinated.

You do not need to be eligible or enrolled in Medicare to receive a free COVID-19 vaccination.

If you do not have a Medicare card, you can get your free vaccination at:

• Commonwealth vaccinations clinics,
• state or territory vaccination clinics, or
• participating pharmacies

Use the Australia.gov.au link to find your nearest vaccination clinic and book your vaccination. If you need phone or on-site interpreting at your vaccine appointment, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450. If you need phone or on-site interpreting at your vaccine appointment, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.

Getting proof of your COVID-19 vaccination

You can access your Immunisation History Statement:
• Online, by setting up your own “My Gov account” and then accessing your Medicare account, or
• Through the Express Plus Medicare app.

If you do not have a Medicare card, or do not have access to a My Gov account, you can access your Immunisation History Statement by:
• asking your vaccination provider to print a copy for you; or
• by calling the Australian Immunisation Register enquiries line on 1800 653 809 (8 am-5 pm Monday to Friday AEST) and asking them to send your statement to you in the mail. It can take up to 14 days to arrive in the mail. For interpreting services please call 131 450.

For more information on how to get proof of your COVID-19 vaccinations, see the Services Australia app.

For other COVID-19 vaccine information, visit Australia.gov.au website or call 1800 020 080. For interpreting services, call 131 450.

Coronavirus: What challenges remain for India’s vaccine drive?

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India’s vaccination drive was stalled earlier this year by dose shortages amid a devastating COVID outbreak. Production and supply have vastly improved, but the majority of adults have still not been fully vaccinated.

By Murali Krishnan

NEW DELHI, 21 October 2021: On Thursday, India celebrated passing the milestone of administering 1 billion COVID vaccine doses.

To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited health care workers at New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. The Health Ministry also held events with music and entertainment across the country.

“We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 1.3 billion Indians,” Modi tweeted.

However, nine months after launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive, experts say it will be early next year before its adult population is fully vaccinated.

Currently, 30% of India’s adult population is fully vaccinated and 74% have been given one dose of a two-dose regimen.

Vaccination milestone follows deadly second wave
India launched the vaccination drive in stages starting on January 16, 2021. Health care workers were given priority.

Several weeks later, eligibility was expanded to anyone above 60 years old, and those above 45 years old with comorbidities.

In May, everyone 18 years and over was made eligible to receive a vaccine.

However, during the peak of a devastating outbreak in spring 2021, India experienced widespread vaccine shortages as new daily COVID cases at one point topped 300,000.

The daily death toll during this so-called second wave was in the thousands. Crematoriums in cities across the country were operating beyond capacity, with makeshift funeral pyres being set up.

“Most of us hadn’t dealt with a pandemic in our lifetime so preparation and anticipation were not easy,” infectious disease expert Priscila Rupali from the Christian Medical College told DW.

At the time, the government was criticized for having sent largeshipments of vaccines abroad, a policy it was forced to turn around as Indian producers struggled to pump out doses.

“From challenges of availability of vaccine doses initially, we have come a long way and now we have to vaccinate those left behind,” said N K Arora, head of the COVID working group at India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization.

“It is not an easy task. Community engagement with dispelling myths, suspicions and anxiety has helped us reach the billion mark,” he told DW.

What is the current state of India’s vaccination drive?
The Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, accounts for nearly 90% of vaccine doses in India. Covishield is the brand name in India for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Covaxin, a vaccine developed in India by Bharat Biotech, has emergency use authorization in India, but still has not been able to meet production expectations.

Despite the initial vaccine shortages experienced during the second wave, supply lines of vaccines seem to have vastly improved in the past three months.

In early March, there were an estimated 3,000 vaccination centers in India. There are now nearly 100,000 across the country.

Moving forward, epidemiologists and public health experts argue that authorities need to prioritize administering second doses, as the Covishield vaccine requires two doses to provide maximum protection.

With the domestic situation vastly improved, India has also resumed contributing to international supplies of vaccines.

Exports are expected to increase significantly in the next few months as domestic supply is secured and most of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Drive to get Indians fully vaccinated

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However, India’s disparity between partially and fully vaccinated is among the highest in the world.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has told state governments to target districts with low vaccination rates and push people to take a second dose.

“Covering the last mile is difficult in any country. We are already seeing difficulty getting complete coverage done even in the US and other developed nations,” epidemiologist Giridhar Babu told DW.

“There is no point in having an arbitrary deadline,” he added.

Babu believes India should continue strengthening local planning and implementation in areas and population groups that are difficult to reach, even if it takes a little longer.

India set a single-day vaccination record, using the occasion of Modi’s birthday on September 17 to launch a vaccination drive, administering more than 25 million shots.

“That we have enough infrastructure to give that number of shots in a day is commendable,” Vineeta Bal, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology, told DW.

India is aiming to fully vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of this year, which means an additional 900 million doses would need to be administered between now and December 31.

“As immunity from the first dose or natural infection fades, we need to ensure a second dose is administered to all eligible persons by the first quarter of next year, especially with exports resuming and those below 18 likely to be included,” Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India, told DW.

According to census figures, 41% of India’s 1.3 billion-plus population is younger than 18 years old. Authorities are expected to announce protocols for the rollout of vaccines for children over 12 soon.

Source- dw.com

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Victoria plan to start welcoming international students by 2021 end

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 8 October 2021: International students will start returning to Victoria by the end of the year under the Victorian Government’s Student Arrivals Plan, which has been submitted to the Commonwealth for approval.

The Plan provides a graduated, safe return to study in Victoria for international students, and a pipeline for continued arrivals through 2022.

Students arriving under the plan will be in addition to Victoria’s existing international arrivals cap, which means they will not displace returning Australians.

Minister for Trade Martin Pakula says, “This sensible plan will progressively get students who are enrolled at Victorian universities, TAFEs and colleges safely into Victoria so they can undertake their studies.”

“A gradual return of international students means we can keep Victorians safe and not affect places for returning Australians.”

Under the first stage of the plan, 120 places will be available each week for Victorian university students, prioritising those who need to undertake practical work to continue or complete their degrees, such as health and medical degree students, as well as postgraduate research students.

Universities will provide funding towards the extra quarantine places for student visa holders, with students required to cover the cost of their flight to Melbourne. Students will be quarantined in dedicated accommodation managed by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria.

The second stage will enable more places with larger-scale international student arrivals from across the sector, including those enrolled in TAFEs, English-language courses, private education providers and secondary schools.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne Professor Duncan Maskell says, “Victorian universities have been working collaboratively with the Victorian Government on a plan to facilitate the
return of international students to the state.”

“We are pleased the plan has now been submitted to the Federal Government – we look forward to Minister Tudge reviewing and approving the plan as soon as possible.”

International students are a vital part of Victoria’s academic and broader community. While over 75,000 international students from 100 countries are currently studying in Victoria, around 47,000 more are enrolled with Victorian education providers but remain offshore while Australia’s international borders are closed.

International education is a critical services export and jobs provider for Victoria, contributing a peak of $13.7 billion to the state’s economy and supporting around 79,000 Victorian jobs prior to the pandemic.