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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

It Is Hard To Argue With The Sentiment Expressed Here – This Vaccine Might Not Have Been Perfect But It Saved A Humongous Number Of Lives!

This appeared a few days ago along with a reminder a report on the whole saga is due in September this year:

The Observer Coronavirus


AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is no more – but its remarkable success must not be forgotten

Robin McKie Science editor

Although dogged by controversy, the firm’s coronavirus jab saved the lives of millions and helped avert humanitarian crises in nations unable to access costly alternatives

Sun 12 May 2024 00.29 AESTFirst published on Sun 12 May 2024 00.26 AEST

Last week’s announcement that AstraZeneca would no longer market its Covid vaccine brings an end to one of the century’s most remarkable medical stories. Created within a year of the arrival of the pandemic, the AZ vaccine was cheap, easily stored and transported, and helped stave off humanitarian crises in Asia and Latin America, where many countries could not afford the more expensive mRNA vaccines that were being snapped up by rich western nations. It is estimated that it saved 6.3 million lives in 2021 alone.

Yet from the start the vaccine – created by research teams led by Professor Andy Pollard and Professor Sarah Gilbert at the Oxford Vaccine Centre – was dogged by controversy. It was linked to blood clots, US observers criticised protocols for its trials, and French president Emmanuel Macron claimed it was “quasi-ineffective” for people over 65. In fact, the vaccine is particularly effective for the elderly.

In very rare cases, the AZ vaccine can cause blood clots. According to the British Heart Foundation, one study in the BMJ showed that for every 10 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca there would be a total of 73 extra cases of blood clots. By contrast 10 million Covid cases would trigger thousands of extra blood clot cases.

Many of the anxieties about the vaccine stemmed from national self-interests. However, others derive from the nature of vaccines themselves, and this raises issues that are likely to re-emerge with the arrival of any new pandemic in coming years, scientists have warned.

A vaccine is unlike any other type of medicine because it works by stimulating a person’s anti-pathogen defences, arming them in advance of a future infection. However, this preparation goes beyond helping one individual and can aid the general population, a point stressed by Professor Stephen Evans, of the London School of Medicine and Tropical Hygiene.

“If I take a preventative drug – such as a statin – then I am the only one who benefits,” said Evans. “However, there are people who cannot mount responses to a vaccine because they are ill or have a weakened immune system. They remain vulnerable. However, if you can build up herd immunity by ensuring the maximum number of people are inoculated, virus levels will drop and the vulnerable will be protected. If we believe we have responsibilities to help others, being vaccinated achieves that. There are moral concerns about being inoculated, in other words.”

Convincing the public – which has witnessed a rise in anti-vax propaganda in recent years – of this may not be easy. In addition, there is a second crucial difference between standard medical treatments and vaccines, added Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the University of Cambridge. “We never know the identities of those who benefit [from a vaccine] – they are ‘statistical’ people – while those who are harmed can be named and their stories told.”

AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine provides an example. We only know those who were harmed by it but cannot pinpoint those who benefited. Again, this makes it trickier to pinpoint a vaccine’s success and assure people of its efficacy. “To a certain extent, you can get round this and assess the impact of Covid vaccines by looking at the deaths of frontline workers in the health service during the pandemic’s early days,” added Evans. “Hundreds died, but if we had had a vaccine then it is now clear most would probably have survived.”

Most virologists and vaccine experts agree: when you look at the AstraZeneca vaccine from a global perspective, it probably benefited tens of millions of people, preventing deaths and reducing long-term consequences of Covid. It was a remarkable success, yet its passing has been marked by many who stressed its side-effects but never touched on its achievements.

“The paradox of vaccines is that people forget how important they are,” said Professor Adam Finn, of Bristol University. “They are like democracy. You enjoy it for a while and then forget how important it is to preserve it. It’s a problem.”

On the other hand, it is also clear politicians and officials will have to be careful about the claims they make, added Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre. “Public trust in vaccines will come from open and honest communication. The benefits massively outweigh the risks as they did with this vaccine.

“But you won’t win any arguments by claiming that vaccines are 100% safe or running for the hills at the first reports of problems, which unfortunately too many government and NHS communications officers tend to do.

Downplaying risks is always tempting when you need people to take a mostly safe vaccine but it’s ultimately self-defeating because it erodes trust in the longer term.”

Robin McKie and science and environment editor for the Observer

Here is the link:


If ever there was a case of perfection being the enemy of the very good this saga has to be it.

I remember the excited debate about how many side-effect related deaths were acceptable in the context of a pretty safe vaccine and a rising death toll from the virus way back then, Fortunately sanity prevailed with the at-risk populations until the Pfizer vaccine could be made and imported in adequate quantities.

Looking back it seems we could have steamed forward with A-Z and lost very few lives and saved a good few lives down the track.

Has anyone seen a decent review of the whole COVID-19 episode and the response. It would make interesting reading now!

This video will remind you of how we were thinking at the time:


Here is also a link to the Federal Government Inquiry which is due to report by September 2024.


Commonwealth Government COVID-19 Response Inquiry terms of reference

The purpose of the Commonwealth Government COVID-19 Response Inquiry (the Inquiry) is to identify lessons learned to improve Australia’s preparedness for future pandemics.


The Inquiry will review the Commonwealth Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and make recommendations to improve response measures in the event of future pandemics. It will consider opportunities for systems to more effectively anticipate, adapt and respond to pandemics in areas of Commonwealth Government responsibility.

The Inquiry will adopt a whole-of-government view in recognition of the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 across portfolios and the community. Specific areas of review may include, but are not limited to:

  • Governance including the role of the Commonwealth Government, responsibilities of state and territory governments, national governance mechanisms (such as National Cabinet, the National Coordination Mechanism and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) and advisory bodies supporting responses to COVID-19.
  • Key health response measures (for example across COVID-19 vaccinations and treatments, key medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, quarantine facilities, and public health messaging).
  • Broader health supports for people impacted by COVID-19 and/or lockdowns (for example mental health and suicide prevention supports, and access to screening and other preventive health measures).
  • International policies to support Australians at home and abroad (including with regard to international border closures, and securing vaccine supply deals with international partners for domestic use in Australia).
  • Support for industry and businesses (for example responding to supply chain and transport issues, addressing labour shortages, and support for specific industries).
  • Financial support for individuals (including income support payments).
  • Community supports (across early childhood education and care, higher education, housing and homelessness measures, family and domestic violence measures in areas of Commonwealth Government responsibility).
  • Mechanisms to better target future responses to the needs of particular populations (including across genders, age groups, socio-economic status, geographic location, people with disability, First Nations peoples and communities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities).

The Inquiry will consider the findings of previous relevant inquiries and reviews and identify knowledge gaps for further investigation. It will also consider the global experience and lessons learnt from other countries in order to improve response measures in the event of future global pandemics.

The following areas are not in scope for the Inquiry:

  • Actions taken unilaterally by state and territory governments.
  • International programs and activities assisting foreign countries.

Independent Panel

The Prime Minister has appointed an Independent Panel of three eminent people to conduct the Inquiry. The Independent Panel will consult with relevant experts and people with a diverse range of backgrounds and lived experience.


A Taskforce within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will support the Independent Panel.

Public consultation

Public consultation will be completed during the Inquiry on the substance of the issues outlined in the Terms of Reference. The Independent Panel may invite and publish submissions and seek information from any persons or bodies. Consultation will take place across Australia with:

  • Key community and other stakeholders reflecting a diversity of backgrounds
  • Experts
  • Commonwealth Government and state and territory government agencies
  • Members of the public

Final Report

The Independent Panel will deliver a Final Report to Government including recommendations to the Commonwealth Government to improve Australia’s preparedness for future pandemics by the end of September 2024.

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This will make fascinating reading I am sure - and not all that far away! I wonder how 'warts and all' it will be?


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