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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given green light for use in Australia

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This morning, Australia’s medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), gave the thumbs up for use of the Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) COVID-19 vaccine, as reported by The ABC.

The approval comes one year after the first recorded case of coronavirus on Australian shores. Pfizer’s product is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use within Australia, beating out other suppliers, including Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) and AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN). Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy advised that the Australian Government will not be seeking to procure Moderna’s vaccine, due to the similarity with Pfizer’s.

Prime Minister’s comments

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison addressed the public regarding the approval this morning. Mr Morrison noted the premise of today’s approval.

This is not an emergency approval, as has been done in some other jurisdictions around the world. This is a formal approval under the ordinary processes of the TGA – and we are one of the first countries, in the handful of countries, to have gone through that comprehensive and thorough process here in Australia, to ensure the approval of that vaccine.

As mentioned in the press briefing held this morning, initial Pfizer vaccines are expected to be rolled out closer to late February than mid-February, due to stresses on global supply.

The impact on supply means that the government’s original guide of 4 million people injected by the end of March now looks more likely to be targeted for late April.

Mr Morrison remarked on how this reflects the importance of having domestic manufacturing capability.

..and it was for that reason, around August of last year, that we took the decision that we didn’t want to be in a situation where we are completely reliant on the production of vaccines overseas.

The product of that early decision is the working relationship between CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) and AstraZeneca to manufacture ‘our own vaccine’ here in Australia, pending TGA approval. Overseas supply is expected in early March, with domestic production of the AstraZeneca formulation through CSL to yield around 1 million doses per week by late March.

COVID-19 vaccine details

Reportedly, the Pfizer vaccine will be supplied in Australia for people aged 16 years and older. The inoculation will be provided in two doses, with a minimum of 21 days between each dose.

Professor Murphy also noted that the immunity length is still unknown, “It may be that people will need additional doses of vaccines, possibly annually. These things are completely unknown at the moment.”

Additionally reported by The Australian Financial Review, there is currently no data on the Pfizer vaccine’s effect on pregnant women. Professor Murphy commented, “We will be getting advice, that is just going to be based on the best guess of what the risks are are at the moment and that is coming very shortly, before the vaccine is administered.” 

It is advised that Australia will have access to around 50 million injections of the AstraZeneca vaccine once approved by the TGA.

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Mitchell Lawler has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of CSL Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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