The Australian Academy of Science has entered the vaccine effectiveness debate. 

In recent days, president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, Prof Stephen Turner, told reporters that Australia should halt the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of its “lower efficacy”, saying the nation “cannot rely on it to establish herd immunity”.

Australian Medical Association WA branch chief Dr Andrew Miller backed that call, saying: “We need to pause and look at what the outcomes are going to be before we take any further steps”.

But now, the Australian Academy of Science has issued a statement on the pandemic, vaccines and misinformation, which says that for local purposes; “both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are equally effective”.

“Australia’s current vaccination strategy is aimed at reducing the severity of disease – put simply, to reduce the number of exposed individuals getting very sick or dying,” the Academy says.

“Vaccines approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration will be safe and effective at reducing the risk of developing severe COVID-19.

“Vaccinated individuals will be protected from the worst of COVID-19 but will not be protected from becoming infected. 

“None of the vaccines that have been approved for use have demonstrated that they can stop transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Public confusion has arisen around the implications of 62 per cent or 95 per cent effectiveness of first-generation COVID-19 vaccines. These figures represent the AstraZeneca AZD1222 and Pfizer BioNTech BTB162b vaccines' respective effectiveness rates at protecting an infected person from developing mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

“Either vaccine is amply effective to prevent severe disease - the outcome we all fear most and the primary goal of Australia’s vaccination strategy,” the Academy says. 

“Administering first-generation vaccines will be critical to reducing the number of people infected with COVID-19 who then progress to hospitalisation, intensive care, or death. It will allow us to avoid a major wave of illness like that currently being experienced in the northern hemisphere.”