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3 Aug 2021 0:27
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  •   Home > News > International

    COVID vaccine plans tweaked around the world in attempt to boost effectiveness against Delta variant

    As outbreaks driven by the Delta variant take hold across the globe, a number of countries are changing their approach to vaccinations in a bid to improve effectiveness.


    A growing list of countries have switched up their vaccination strategies in recent weeks as they race to control surges in Delta COVID-19 cases.

    Driving the change in plans is an attempt to prioritise vaccines thought to be more effective against the highly transmissible variant.

    But experts say data is still emerging about which vaccines can best combat this new strain.

    "We are only just starting to learn about the effectiveness of all vaccines, so it's really important that we recognise that this is a very dynamic field," said professor Kristine Macartney, director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

    Several countries have been relying on China's Sinovac vaccinations.

    But Jin Dong-Yan, professor of molecular virology at the University of Hong Kong, told the ABC the effectiveness of Sinovac could become a concern.

    "Originally the efficacy was 50 something [per cent], so if it goes down a lot, then it will fall into the area which is actually not acceptable," he said.

    The World Health Organization requires vaccines to have a minimum efficacy rate of 50 per cent.

    Sinovac has not responded to ABC requests for comment.

    As new strains emerge, Professor Jin believes the effectiveness of all our current vaccines will decline, because they are built on the ancestral strain of the virus.

    But many manufacturers already have variant-specific vaccines in clinical trials for booster shots down the track.

    Professor Macartney points out that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and vaccines are crucial.

    "Effectiveness of 50 or 60 per cent can still save millions of lives," she said.

    As outbreaks driven by the Delta variant take hold across the globe, a number of countries are changing their approach.

    Chile

    Alarm is growing in Chile over the Delta strain.

    With nearly 50 per cent of people vaccinated, the country still went into a two-week lockdown due to a spike in Delta case numbers.

    Just under 90 per cent of vaccines used in Chile are from Sinovac.

    Last week, the leaders of a Chilean late-stage human trial of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine recommended a third dose of the jab to protect against the more contagious Delta variant.

    Israel

    While Sinovac is known to be less effective than Pfizer, the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against the Delta strain is also under the spotlight in Israel.

    Israel is grappling with a jump in Delta cases and is discussing booster shots with drug companies.

    However, real-world data shows hospitalisation and deaths among people vaccinated with Pfizer are low.

    Malaysia

    Malaysia's Health Ministry says the country will stop administering Sinovac once its supplies end, as it has a sufficient number of other vaccines.

    Malaysia's future inoculation drive will be largely anchored by the Pfizer vaccine, a health official said.

    Thailand

    In Thailand, people who have received one dose of the Sinovac vaccine will now get AstraZeneca as their second dose.

    Thailand's "mix-and-match" approach was a world-first, and now many countries are using that strategy, with evidence that it works well.

    Professor Jin believes Thailand's approach is reasonable.

    "[For] those countries who have no other way, they are still better than nothing. That's the reality," he said.

    Indonesia

    Indonesia, now the new epicentre of the pandemic, is reporting more new COVID-19 cases than anywhere in the world.

    The country has been using Sinovac, but after reports that 131 health care workers who had mostly received their two doses had died since June, the government announced in early July that the more effective Moderna vaccines would be used as a booster for health workers.

    Hungary

    Hungary was the first EU country to use Chinese vaccines. About 1 million people have received those jabs. 

    Hungary has approved at least eight different vaccines for use, including Western-made shots from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

    Last week, Hungary said it would offer an optional third dose of any vaccine as a booster shot from August 1, after reports Hungarians were getting vaccinated in neighbouring countries because of doubts over the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines.

    Vietnam

    While infections are on the rise in Vietnam, the country has largely avoided huge case numbers.

    Vietnam's mass inoculation campaign is in its early stages, with fewer than 300,000 people fully vaccinated.

    It has so far used AstraZeneca, and in early July took delivery of nearly 100,000 doses of Pfizer.

    Vietnam will offer Pfizer and BioNTech as a second-dose option for people who have already had a shot of AstraZeneca, the government said.

    ABC/Reuters


    ABC




    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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