It will be six years before the world is vaccinated against COVID-19: experts

It will take six years to vaccinate enough of the world’s population to reduce the threat of COVID-19, but public health experts say vaccines are no silver bullet and hygiene measures and masks will be part of life for years to come.

Infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake said the SARS-Cov-2 virus could eventually become another seasonal cold or flu-like virus, but there were some major obstacles to that, including the global vaccine rollout.

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, and Professor Robert Booy discussed the vaccine rollout at the National Press Club on Wednesday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Only about 70 nations have started to vaccinate their populations, and at the current rate of vaccination, it is estimated we won’t reach global coverage of 75 per cent with vaccines for about six years – not one or two years, but six years,” he said.

“In addition, Oxfam has said that by the end of this year, there will be 70 poorer nations where only one in 10 people have been vaccinated.”

Professor Robert Booy, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws and Associate Professor Senanayake spoke at the National Press Club on Wednesday about the coming vaccine rollout challenges as more countries begin vaccinating their communities.

The experts said it was important for everyone to get vaccinated.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Personally, I think healthy older people would benefit, but stronger responses are given to the Pfizer vaccine, and we’re aiming to give particularly people with lots of comorbidities, and lots of
illnesses who are older, that vaccine.”

Professor McLaws stressed the AstraZeneca vaccine was “very safe” and would help protect people from severe infection.

But the vaccine rollout will be complex. Professor McLaws calculated that Australia will need to vaccinate between 160,000 and 190,000 people a day in order to vaccinate the majority of the population within 10 months.

“It’s an enormous undertaking, and it can be done, but I would stress to everybody in Australia that when it’s your turn to get vaccinated, get vaccinated,” she said.

Professor McLaws said Australia’s “low tech” strategies for keeping the pandemic at bay, including hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing, will continue to be important even as the population gets vaccinated.

“This vaccine is not a silver bullet,” she said.

“I’d remind everybody when they do have their injection – don’t rush out and take your mask off if you’re asked to wear it. Be COVID-safe.”

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