The UK Just Dropped an Omicron Vaccine, But Why Is Australia Never First to Get Jabbed?

You have two options. Option one: You get jabbed with a COVID vax, you have some bants with your doctor, and you become a local hero. Option Two: You don’t get vaxxed, you get COVID, and you roll the hospitalisation dice while holding a pillow made out of virus sweat. 

Now, I know which option I’d take, so that’s why I’m stoked for the fact that the UK has just approved a vaccine that attacks both the classic version of COVID and its spicy updated Omicron strain. According to the BBC, Moderna is behind these new vaccines and they will provide folks better protection against newer versions of this virus. In fact, Moderna’s updated vaccine can disable Omicron’s sub-variant BA.1 at a 1.7 times higher rate than some previous vaccines. 

As Dr June Raine, the UK’s regulator’s chief executive, stated, “What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armoury to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”

This is obviously great news for all of us. The more people who are resistant to Omicron’s manoeuvres, the less chances it has of altering into another subvariant. However, it also begs the question: Why aren’t vaccines like this in Australia yet? When are they coming? And why does Australia usually take a hot minute for its vaccines to be approved? Let’s answer those questions now:

When Will Australia Get an Omicron Vaccine?

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Moderna has two new vaccines they’re hoping will be approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). One is an Omicron-specific vaccine, while the other one will target both Omicron and the original flavour of COVID. There’s hope that these vaccines might be released in Australia before 2022 is over.

Nevertheless, the TGA is playing their cards close to their chest on this issue. The last time these folks updated their “COVID-19 vaccines undergoing evaluation” webpage was on August 3. 

Related: What is Omicron, the New COVID Variant?

Related: What We Know About the New BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron Sub-Variants That Have Reached Australia

Why Does Australia Approve COVID Vaxxes Slower Than Other Countries?

During the unprecedented heights of the COVID pandemic, some countries used “Emergency Use Authorisation” pathways to make COVID vaccines available for their citizens. This meant that places like America, the UK, and Canada, made some vaccines available in a less strenuous process than what they’d typically go through. As per the Australian Government Department of Health, this is because these countries had heaps of COVID cases at these times. 

But in Australia, there is no “Emergency Use Authorisation” pathway that the TGA could take. Nor was one created for them. This meant that the TGA approved our vaccines after assessing all of the available data and making sure they were safe. Moreover, this is the same process they use when approving any vaccine in this country. And thus, the TGA’s process took longer than somewhere like the UK’s speedier avenue. 

It’s reasonable to believe that the TGA is taking a similar approach with these two new Moderna vaccines. If they are safe, they’ll be approved. But the TGA isn’t going to rush through this important process either.

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