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Australia OKs use of 4th COVID-19 vaccine, 2 at-home antiviral treatments

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Australia OKs use of 4th COVID-19 vaccine, 2 at-home antiviral treatments
Australia on Thursday approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Novavax Inc. headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. File Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Australia's drug regulator on Thursday added another COVID-19 vaccine and two at-home antiviral pill treatments to its arsenal of therapeutic weapons to fight the pandemic with as the island nation combats spiking cases.

The Oceanic nation's Department of Health's Therapeutic Goods Administration separately gave provisional approval to the three treatments as the country posted a record 77 deaths on Tuesday and a daily case load of nearly 50,000 on Thursday, down from the record high of 89,000 on Jan. 8, according to government data.

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The vaccine by Novavax was given approval by Australia about two weeks after the two parties entered an agreement for the U.S. biotechnology company to deliver 51 million doses of the drug to Australia by the middle of this year and includes the provision for Canberra to buy up to an additional 10 million jabs.

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Australia's Department of Health said the first batch of doses is expected to arrive next month.

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"While the world continues to grapple with the ever-changing nature of the virus, we look forward to delivering our vaccine to the people of Australia," Stanley Erck, president and chief executive of Novavax, said in a statement.

The Department of Health is currently using three vaccines by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna in its inoculation campaign, which has resulted in 92.8% of the population above the age of 16 fully vaccinated against the pandemic.

Of its more than 25 million people, 5.7 million have received at least one booster shot, it said.

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The drug regulator said the two-dose regime is to be administered to those over the age of 18 three weeks apart.

Trials concerning the vaccine's use as a booster dose and in paediatric patients were ongoing, it said.

The regulator on Thursday also approved use of Pfizer's two-pill COVID-19 treatment called Paxlovid and domestically manufactured Merck Sharp & Dohme's one-pill therapeutic named Lagevrio.

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"Both of these products ... have been granted provisional approval for the treatment of adults with COVID-19 who do not require initiation of oxygen and who are at increased risk of progression to hospitalization or death," it said.

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The regulator instructed for either medicine to be administered as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and within five days of the start of symptoms.

They require a prescription and are to be taken every 12 hours for five days and they are designed to interfere with the virus' ability to multiply, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said in a statement.

Canberra previously secured access to 500,000 treatment courses of Paxlovid and 300,000 of Lagevrio to be supplied throughout the year wity first deliveries expected in weeks.

"Whilst vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19, our government continues work to ensure that Australians have early access to safe and effective treatments as they are approved for use by the medical experts," Hunt said. "These agreements reinforce our strong response to managing COVID-19 outbreaks and ensures that Australia benefits from new pharmaceutical technologies."

On Monday, Canada gave approval for Pfizer's oral antiviral pills and South Korea approved use of the Novavax vaccine on Nov. 12.

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