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Scott Morrison mentioned the COVID-19 vaccine being 'mandatory'. It started a national debate.

"I would expect [the COVID-19 vaccine] to be as mandatory as you could possibly make it."

Those were the words of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking to 3AW on Wednesday morningabout the vaccine that will put an end to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds but that should be the only basis," the Prime Minister continued. "We need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal."

Within mere hours, Morrison backtracked.

"It is not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine," he told 2GB by Wednesday afternoon. "There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia.

"No one is going to force anybody to do anything as a compulsory measure, but we certainly will encourage people to take this up."

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. On this episode, journalist Claire Murphy finds out the latest on the coronavirus vaccine. Post continues below. 

Morrison's comments come as Australia is a step closer to securing a potential coronavirus vaccine after the government struck an early agreement with developers in the UK.

But the Prime Minister's comments about it being mandatory have triggered a national debate about the safety of the potential vaccine. 

Yes, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers tend to go hand-in-hand whenever there is talk about vaccinations. But as journalist Waleed Aly pointed out on Wednesday's The Project, this isn't necessarily about pro-vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers

"I feel like we need to stop this being an anti-vax/vax argument," Aly said, in conversation with epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely about the pros and cons of such a quick turnaround of the coronavirus vaccine.

"We're seeing in the polling data, there is a significant number of reservations, and that's not about anti-vaxxers. You know, these are people who are pro-vaccination but might have a concern in this particular case," Aly explained. 

"Vaccinations are normally tested for long-term side effects - so you give people the vaccination and then you check five years later and see if there are any side effects. That's clearly going to be impossible to do this time."

Aly asked the epidemiologist if this is cause for concern. 

Watch: Waleed Aly on the reservations of some Australians to receive the coronavirus vaccination. Post continues below. 


Video via Channel 10.
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"We're moving fast as a world here," Professor Blakely admitted, adding that some developers for the coronavirus vaccine are in phase three, meaning only early-term results are known so far. 

"We'll be getting this vaccine rolling out to populations about six months after these trials, with only early-term results. So the long-term side effects won't be known," Professor Blakely said. "And that's a risk that is there."

"But we can draw on information from other vaccines, which generally show that if you're going to have an adverse reaction from a vaccine, it's early in the case and not long-term down the track."

Professor Blakely said very few vaccines have any long-term side effects.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has said officials will work to reassure Australians the vaccine is safe and effective.

So, what is the latest on the COVID-19 vaccine?

On Wednesday, Scott Morrison said he has put Australia's hand up for a coronavirus vaccine being trialled by Oxford University and British drug company AstraZeneca.

Under the deal, Australia would make and supply the vaccine - should it prove safe and effective - and provide it free to all Australians.

"The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in the world, and under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian," the prime minister said.

Morrison admitted there was no guarantee the vaccine would be successful, so the government was continuing talks with other parties as well as backing Australian researchers.

The Oxford University trials are under way in the UK, Brazil and South Africa and are due to soon start in the US, running into early 2021.

Rebecca Ashfield, who is an Immunologist at the University of Oxford, recently wrote for The Conversation: "The preliminary data shows that it is safe and induced a strong antibody response in all vaccinated volunteers, suggesting that an effective vaccine could be within reach...

"Importantly, the vaccine demonstrates an acceptable safety profile, with no vaccine-induced severe adverse events – that is, no major side-effects."


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