Vaccines alone won’t keep Australia Covid-safe

High levels of testing, efficient vaccine distribution and addressing pandemic mental health impacts are critical if Australia is to maintain control over Covid-19 in 2021.

This is according to a report by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS).

This is according to a review by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) titled ‘Maintaining strong foundations and building resilience: planning Australia’s path through the COVID-19 pandemic’.

“By any global measure the Australian approach has been a spectacular success,” says University of Sydney infectious diseases researcher Professor Tania Sorrell, who chaired the committee that produced the report.

“But this has come at significant cost and, as the second wave in Victoria showed, success can be very fragile.”

Maintaining control – and avoiding the huge health and economic costs that would accompany a resurgence of the virus – will require a suite of strong public health and policy measures from federal, state and territory governments.

“Reported vaccine results of 90% effectiveness and above are encouraging,” says one of the co-authors, University of Queensland immunologist Professor Ian Frazer.

“But these vaccines will need an enormous effort to manufacture, transport, store and administer across Australia. And that is going to take a lot of time – very likely, deep into 2021. If we let our guard down before that, the virus will get away from us again.”

The AAHMS review concludes that Australia’s best strategy must combine:

  • ongoing implementation of comprehensive public health measures, including high levels of testing combined with contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, social distancing and mask-wearing;
  • optimal roll-out of vaccines and other interventions as they become available;
  • effective prevention and treatment of long-term health issues arising from the pandemic, including mental health and “long” Covid; support to other countries in the region; 
sustained and enhanced backing for research and innovation to develop the tools required to tackle the pandemic.