- The Australian Government has accepted the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on the use of new COVID-19 XBB.1.5 vaccine as part of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Program.1
- The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) encourages all people who have not yet had their recommended 2023 dose/s to receive them as soon as possible.2
- XBB.1.5-containing vaccines are now preferred for all doses.2
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, 22 NOVEMBER 2023 – Pfizer welcomes the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) updated statement on the COVID-19 Vaccination Program.
ATAGI, which provides clinical advice for COVID-19 vaccine providers on administering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible patients, has noted the recent increase in COVID-19 cases across Australia since November 2023. ATAGI advises that all currently available COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to provide benefit to eligible people, however the monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines are preferred over other vaccines for use in children aged 5 years or older and adults who are currently recommended primary or additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine according to the Australian Immunisation Handbook.2
Providers can refer to the Australian Immunisation Handbook to check which vaccines are recommended by age group.2
ATAGI's statement reflects the need to protect Australians, particularly vulnerable groups including those over 75 years and younger people with medical comorbidities, who are at greater risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19.2
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved monovalent COVID-19 vaccines that address Omicron XBB-related sublineages,3,4 which currently account for the majority of COVID-19 cases globally.5
Although Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent COVID-19 vaccines provide some protection against a range of outcomes from XBB-related COVID-19,6,7 evidence suggests that vaccines better matched to currently circulating strains can further help improve protection against symptomatic and severe COVID-19.8
“COVID-19 is constantly evolving and XBB is antigenically distant to the original Omicron variants we have seen before. This is why we need new tools to fight the virus,” said Dr Krishan Thiru, Pfizer Australia & New Zealand Country Medical Director.
“COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2022, after ischaemic heart disease and dementia.9 The virus continues to pose a health risk to communities and individuals of all ages and backgrounds, in particular certain population groups such as older individuals and those with underlying comorbidities.10,11,12 Whilst many are feeling COVID fatigue, we urge Australians to continue being vigilant and heed the health advice of the World Health Organization and Australia’s health authorities,” he said.
“Australia is experiencing an eighth COVID-19 wave and we are seeing an uptick in the number of cases and hospitalisations across the country. Being vigilant about staying up to date with vaccination and lowering our risk of infection is critical as we head into the holiday period and families and friends gather in large groups, or travel interstate and abroad. We are reminding Australians that COVID loves a crowd.
“The first line of defence is to get vaccinated, and also wear masks when needed, maintain physical distance wherever possible, avoid high-risk settings, and practice good hygiene,” Dr Thiru said.
Pfizer is working closely with the Australian Government to commence supply as quickly as possible. The use of vaccines should be in accordance with official Government recommendations.
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At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacturing of medicines. Our diversified global health care portfolio includes biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies, we also collaborate with healthcare providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. For more information, please visit: https://www.pfizer.com.au.
- New Covid-19 vaccines available to target current variants. Health Portfolio Ministers. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/new-covid-19-vaccines-available-to-target-current-variants Accessed November 2023.
- ATAGI recommendations on use of the Moderna and Pfizer monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 COVID-19 vaccines. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-recommendations-on-use-of-the-moderna-and-pfizer-monovalent-omicron-xbb15-covid-19-vaccines Accessed November 2023.
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. ARTG Public Summary documents COMIRNATY Omicron XBB.1.5 (raxtozinameran) COVID-19 Vaccine. Available at: http://www.tga.gov.au/resources/artg?keywords=XBB+1.5. Accessed November 2023.
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. ARTG Public Summary documents SPIKEVAX XBB.1.5 (andusomeran) COVID-19 Vaccine. Available at: www.tga.gov.au/resources/artg?keywords=XBB+1.5. Accessed November 2023.
- World Health Organization. COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update: Edition 158 published 1 September 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-epidemiological-update-on-covid-19---1-september-2023
- Link-Gelles R, Ciesla AA, Roper LE, et al. Early estimates of bivalent mRNA booster dose vaccine effectiveness in preventing symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection attributable to Omicron BA.5– and XBB/XBB.1.5–related sublineages among immunocompetent adults — Increasing community access to testing program, United States, December 2022–January 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:119–124. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7205e1
- Link-Gelles R, Weber ZA, Reese SE, et al. Estimates of bivalent mRNA vaccine durability in preventing COVID-19–associated hospitalization and critical illness among adults with and without immunocompromising conditions — VISION Network, September 2022–April 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:579–588. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7221a3
- Khoury DS, Docken SS, Subbarao K, Kent SJ, Davenport MP, Cromer D. Predicting the efficacy of variant-modified COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Nature Medicine. 2023 Mar;29(3):574-8. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36864253/
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022). Causes of Death, Australia. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release
- World Health Organization. COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, Edition 152; July 20, 2023.
- World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Accessed November 2023. www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Interim public health considerations for COVID- 19 vaccination roll-out during 2023. Updated April 5, 2023. Accessed November 14, 2023.
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