The UK has become the first place to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine and will begin vaccinations next week after the government’s independent scientific advisory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, granted temporary authorisation for emergency use for Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine.
MHRA announced the news yesterday after starting a “rolling review” in October of all available data and after Pfizer and BioNTech confirmed on November 18 that final efficacy analysis of their phase three study demonstrated 95% efficacy.
Now, The Guardian reports UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country will have 800,000 doses — enough for 400,000 people, with two jabs required for immunisation — available for deployment next week. Hancock also said a network of 50 hospitals capable of keeping the drug at -70C is ready to deliver the first jabs, while specialist vaccination centres are being built.
Distribution will then be prioritised according to guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises that first priorities should be the “prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems” — i.e. elderly, immunocompromised, frontline care workers — and secondly those at increased risk of hospitalisation or exposure, and/or people required to maintain essential public services.
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Finally, the committee specifies there is no data as yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy, “either from human or animal studies”, and, favouring a precautionary approach, does not currently advise vaccination in pregnancy.
PS: On the local front, Health Minister Greg Hunt has welcomed the news and noted that Pfizer continues to work with the TGA, while the government’s advice “remains that the timeline for a decision on approval is expected by the end of January 2021, and our planning is for the first vaccine delivery in March 2021”.
REPORT INTO INDIGENOUS DISADVANTAGE
A report by the Productivity Commission into Indigenous disadvantage has found that rates of Indigenous children in out-of-home care have almost tripled in the past 15 years, the rate of deaths from suicide and self-harm increased by 40% over the decade to 2018, and the adult imprisonment rate jumped 72% between 2000 and 2019.
As The Sydney Morning Herald explains, the report contrasts these devastating figures with areas of improvement, which include more Indigenous people finishing school and going on to further education and getting jobs, babies under the age of one dying at half the rate they were 20 years ago, and more non-Indigenous people feeling it important to understand Indigenous culture and history than ever before.
It comes after Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman and new Greens senator Lidia Thorpe delivered the first speech by a federal Aboriginal senator for the party and/or from Victoria, in which she pledged to fight for a treaty and emphasised the important of linking climate action with Indigenous justice.
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
GREAT BARRIER GRIEF
According to The Guardian, a new world heritage outlook report from UNESCO advisory body the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reclassified the Great Barrier Reef from “significant concern” to the body’s most urgent status: “critical”.
The report finds climate change is the greatest threat to natural world heritage, and, following the Black Summer bushfires, notes deteriorating outlooks for the Blue Mountains and the Gondwana rainforests, the latter shifting to the “significant concern” category.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s warnings drop amid three more damning stories on the Morrison government’s climate record:
- A new report into global fossil fuel production, the United Nations Environment Program’s Production Gap, 2020, finds Australia is only ramping up production (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- The British president of the next major UN climate change summit, Alok Sharma, has pointedly thanked all Australian states and territories for backing a net zero emissions 2050 goal while urging unnamed others, i.e. the Morrison government, to join them (The Guardian)
- Remember that extension of the Liddell coal-fired power station the Coalition has been calling for since the Turnbull era? Some belatedly-released modelling for the Liddell Taskforce classifies it as one of the worst options for maintaining reliability (RenewEconomy).
PS: A national day of action “Gamil Means No”, will be held today in major cities to protest Environmental Minister Sussan Ley’s decision to approve Santos’ gas project in Narrabri and the Pilliga.
SOME CRAP NEWS
Finally, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that traces of COVID-19 have been found in sewage in Sydney’s north-west, and NSW Health is urging those in affected suburbs — Riverstone, Vineyard, Marsden Park, Shanes Park, Quakers Hill, Oakville, Box Hill, The Ponds, Rouse Hill, Nelson, Schofields and Colebee — to be tested and isolate if experiencing even mild symptoms.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
The cashless debit card is a punitive measure enacted on the presumption that all welfare recipients within the trial areas are incapable of managing their finances and require the government’s assistance.
Whenever you approach a human problem by inciting shame and guilt you have already lost those who you are seeking to help.
The Tasmanian Liberal MP breaks ranks and acknowledges that the process of controlling, limiting and stigmatising welfare recipients through the cashless welfare card may not have their best interests at heart.
“Can Australia break its dependence on trade with China? There are precedents. Not all of them are hopeful.
“Australia has had a single dominant trading partner before. We were locked into the UK economy first and then, much later, to Japan.”
“Scott Morrison has gone straight to the Chinese people using the WeChat messaging service to explain Australia’s approach to war crimes, defend the nation’s honour, and restate its ongoing respect for Chinese people.
“As at noon today, his message had been viewed 54,000 times, garnering 1788 likes. There’s been no official government response. But plenty of Chinese WeChat users have responded.”
“Lawyers and refugee advocates are hailing a recent High Court decision as a victory for asylum seekers after it unanimously held that the Federal Court could hear negligence claims brought by people in offshore detention.
“The decision could expose the government to a string of expensive lawsuits and make it easier to evacuate sick refugees to Australia for treatment.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Bumps in road ahead but our recovery is strong ($) — Josh Frydenberg (The Australian): “Wednesday’s national accounts confirm Australia’s economic recovery is well under way. Facing a once-in-a-century pandemic that has caused the biggest economic shock since the Depression, Australia has performed better on the health and economic front than almost any other country.”
It isn’t right to say we are out of recession, as these six graphs demonstrate — Peter Martin (The Conversation): “It’d be wrong to say that we are out of recession, although that’s how the graph of Wednesday’s GDP numbers makes it look. Gross domestic product (the measure of everything produced and earned and spent) fell 7% between the March and June quarters after slipping 0.3% between the December and March quarters, and then rebounded 3.3% between the June and September quarters.”
What will it take to acknowledge and respect our humanity? — Marlene Longbottom (IndigenousX): “As I come to write this piece it is almost the end of 2020. This year is one that I look forward to seeing out, I am hopeful of improved opportunities and possibilities for 2021. Like many people in the line of work that I am part of, work in the social justice space is never done. Each morning that brings a new opportunity, also brings another possibility of violence and trauma experienced by Indigenous women. We are in the midst of the #16DaysofActivism2020, I can only draw on the fact that each and every day, the violence of the colony is ongoing and a constant.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Political scientist Jenny Hocking will discuss her new book The Palace Letters in an Avid Reader webinar.
Today is the International Day of People with a Disability.