Covid-19: Vaccination

11 August 2021

Senator GRIFF (South Australia): My question is to Senator Colbeck, representing the Minister for Health, and relates to the vaccine rollout and booster shots. I asked a series of questions on notice to the health minister in June but, as at right now, the answers remain outstanding. I have a constituent who advised me that they received a first shot of AstraZeneca and a second shot of Pfizer vaccine; however, their Medicare immunisation statement notes, 'This individual has not received or required COVID-19 vaccines,' which is untrue. He decided to get a second dose of AstraZeneca, which means he now has had three COVID shots, to force a correction in his immunisation record. Why can an individual's vaccination status be recorded as incomplete when in fact it is not?

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Sport and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services): I would be very happy to take specific details of the constituent's case so that I can understand the details of that and provide that information back to the chamber, if that suits Senator Griff. I'd be very pleased to do that. I suspect that where this lies, in respect of having one dose of two different types of vaccine, is it may very well be that the system currently doesn't recognise that as a full vaccination program, given that there is no registration nor has there been any application for registration to use vaccines of different types to complete a vaccination program. So, in Australia, there is no recognised or TGA approved process to administer vaccines of different types. The accepted methodology under the TGA approvals is that you receive either AstraZeneca, with two doses at the supported interval, or two doses of Pfizer at the supported interval, and, once Moderna comes onto the market, that will be recognised in a similar way. But, to be recognised as a full vaccination in Australia, it has to be done in accordance with the approval process established by the TGA, and there has been neither an application to recognise vaccinations of different types to complete a vaccination nor an approval to do so.

Senator GRIFF Minister, there are instances where doctors have switched vaccine types due to a significant reaction to the first vaccine. Indeed, ATAGI actually advises it in that particular instance. Are you saying that this should not be permitted, or is not currently permitted, and that the individual must get an unnecessary third dose, to which a vaccine reaction is a potential risk to their health?

Senator COLBECK Thanks, Senator Griff. I think, for proper completeness, I should take the detail of your question on notice. I'm very happy to bring back specifics to you and to the chamber. But, as I have said to you at this point, there is no approval for cross-utilisation of vaccines in Australia. For that to occur, there would have to be an application by one of the companies to do so and an approval by the TGA for that to occur. Neither of those circumstances has, at this point in time, occurred. I'm happy to take the question on notice, and, if necessary, I can organise a briefing between Senator Griff, the TGA and the department to give him more detail.

Senator GRIFF Thank you, Minister, for undertaking to do that. I look forward to further advice from you. The government has announced it's setting aside a portion of the Moderna vaccine for a booster program, but, the numbers your government has advised to date won't be enough to cover the eligible population. What else is the government doing to ensure Australia will have sufficient booster vaccines available, and—you might like to take this on notice—does the department have a problem with mixing booster vaccine types?

Senator COLBECK : It's not a matter of what the department has an issue with; it's a matter of what is approved through the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which approves the use of vaccines in this country. That process is supported by the data that goes along with the registration process. As the government has indicated, some of the Moderna doses have been set aside for possible use as boosters. I'm aware, the government is aware, that other vaccine companies are also working on variants of their vaccine for use, potentially, as booster doses, and some of the orders that we have in hand could be utilised for that purpose.

As we have done all along, and as the virus has changed, we have continued to change our approach to meet the requirements of the vaccine rollout. (Time expired)

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