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Virus will still circulate despite vaccines in 'new normal'


Australia’s chief medical officer says part of the “new normal” will be accepting coronavirus will continue to circulate in the community.

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A group of senior state and federal bureaucrats led by prime minister’s department boss Phil Gaetjens has been tasked with finding ways to build confidence and certainty in the community as the vaccine begins to be rolled out.

The initial phase of the vaccine rollout, to start later this month, will target workers involved in the quarantine process, frontline health and aged care workers, and the elderly.

Later in the year vaccines will be made available to the remainder of the public.

However, Australians can’t expect the virus to disappear under “COVID normal”.

“That new normal will almost certainly mean we will have virus circulating in Australia,” Professor Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“But if we can protect people from the disease that is the main aim at the moment in terms of preventing people going to hospital, preventing people going into intensive care and preventing death.”

Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens say the government must expand its basket of vaccines on order to ensure they keep up with new variants of the virus.

Australia has agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Novavax and the COVAX Facility.

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said mutations coming out of South Africa and the UK had the potential to outpace the vaccines, so others such as Moderna’s version should be secured.

However, Prof Kelly said there was a high level of confidence in the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines which will be Australia’s mainstays for at least this year.

“At the moment, I can absolutely say … there’s no evidence anywhere in the world AstraZeneca effectiveness against severe infection is affected by any of these variants of concern,” Prof Kelly said.


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