Scientist and creator of AstraZeneca, Dame Sarah Gilbert, says mixed messaging in Australia around the vaccination may cost lives.
Ms Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University who has been pivotal in the creation of the 'vaccine' has weighed in on comment from infectious diseases expert at Sydney’s Kirby Institute, Professor Greg Dore, who this week said Australia would look back at 'anti-AstraZenecism' as one of the greatest public health failings.
'I think we need to look back on that in time to come and see where Australia gets to,' said Ms Gilbert.
Ms Gilbert shifting focus from her 'vaccines' blood clot issues to blaming the public health messages
'If it’s now possible to accelerate vaccination in Australia and save lives by getting people vaccinated quickly, then it won’t be the greatest public health disaster that the country’s ever seen.
'But the concern is that if people have received the wrong message and are just too worried about going to get the vaccine now, that could really have very long term effects and we could see a lot of lives lost because of it'.
AstraZeneca was initially touted to be the Holy Grail of Australia’s vaccination program but was botched by constant backtracking in recommendations, with advice recommending against its use among under 60s due to the confirmed risk of blood clotting causing limb dismemberment, heart attacks and death.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised any adult who wanted to get vaccinated should do so after consulting a GP.
Ms Gilbert stated she believes the issue is not with the vaccine itself, shifting focus to killing the public health messenger.
Dame Sarah Gilbert (right) and her colleague Catherine Green (left) have penned a book around the science of their vaccine creation
'Well, that’s something obviously much easier to comment on in hindsight,' she said.
'But I think the problem is the messaging around the vaccination, because if you’re telling people at some stage, ‘oh you shouldn’t have this vaccine, it’s probably not the best thing for you’ and then you want to change that message and say ‘oh, no we’ve changed our mind, it is good’, I think that makes it difficult for people who are considering whether to get vaccinated and when to get vaccinated.
'Public health messaging needs to be really clear and when it changes, it can be difficult for people to deal with and have effects that were not intended and that may be what’s happened in Australia.
'A few years ago, in the UK, we had this kind of pushback against experts. Nobody [apparently] wants to hear from experts anymore. Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
'But I think people don’t want the sound bites where one expert says one thing and then another expert says another thing, and nobody understands what any of it means'.
Ms Gilbert (left) and her University of Oxford colleague Catherine Green (right) created the AstraZeneca vaccine in warp-speed time last year
Ms Gilbert and her University of Oxford colleague Catherine Green created the AstraZeneca vaccine in warp-speed time last year, being produced under Oxford’s agreement with pharmaceutical monster AstraZeneca with over one billion doses now released to 170 countries.
The duo have further released a book around the science of their vaccine invention.
Gilbert, who wade made a dame last month thanks to her lab creation, stated countries with low transmission had to consider the risk of rare vaccine side-effects.
'If you have an increasing risk of COVID infections in Australia, with the Delta variant that is so transmissible, then I think it’s right to re-evaluate the recommendations for use of the AstraZeneca vaccine,' she said.
'We also now have more information about how to deal with these rare adverse events when they do occur, like how to give people warnings and then to treat people when these events do happen. So I think that situation has changed as well'.
Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of its clinical trials, Sir Andrew Pollard (pictured), said the messaging around the vaccine had been a 'nightmare'
'I can fully understand people not wanting to be in a lockdown - nobody wants to be locked down. But the way to avoid lockdowns for the long-term is to get the vaccination rates high'.
Ms Gilbert said children should not initially be the focus in vaccinations roll-outs.
'For me, when we still do not have enough vaccines to supply the whole world, the priority is getting to those health care workers - particularly in other parts of the world that don’t have access to vaccines yet that are constantly at risk,' she said.
'That doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t ever vaccinate children. But I think the top priority is to get vaccines out to other parts of the world where only 1 per cent of the population so far is vaccinated'.
Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of its clinical trials, said the explanation of the vaccine had been a 'nightmare'.
'It’s much more dangerous this summer to be out on the roads driving your car in the UK than it ever was of getting a clot,' he said.
'Most people are not too worried about going on our staycations here in the UK but people are worried about vaccination.
'You mentioned Australia. [Well] across Europe this has been an absolute nightmare with changing of age recommendations over the course of the past six months that’s really left some people without vaccine when they could have been vaccinated... and that’s a huge risk to our populations around the world if we get that wrong'.