Australia’s medical regulator has approved a COVID-19 treatment to help prevent infection in people medically unable to be vaccinated against the virus.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has granted tentative approval to AstraZeneca’s Evusheld for use as a pre-exposure prevention measure.
Evusheld won approval for people who are unlikely to have an adequate immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine due to their immunosuppression.
The treatment can also be used for people who are not recommended to get vaccinated against COVID-19 due to a history of serious reactions to vaccination.
Evusheld has been approved for people 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kilograms.
The treatment is given as two separate injections of long-acting antibodies, which bind to COVID-19 spike proteins at different sites.
A TGA spokesperson said Evusheld would prevent the virus from entering cells in the body and causing infection.
“Pre-exposure prevention with Evusheld does not replace vaccination in individuals for whom vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended,” the spokesperson said.
The government secured 36,000 treatment courses of Evusheld from AstraZeneca.
Approval was granted for the treatment following safety trials.
It comes as several jurisdictions moved to relax their indoor mask mandates on Friday.
NSW eased its restrictions from Friday morning, while the ACT will ease its rules at 6 p.m. and Victoria at midnight.
In New South Wales, masks will only be needed in high-risk settings such as public transport, aged care and hospitals.
Residents are recommended to continue to use face masks in indoor areas where physical distancing cannot always be maintained, such as shopping malls.
Mask-wearing will also be abolished for high school students and staff from Monday, while staff and visitors to primary schools and daycares will have to wait until March 7 for mask rules to ease.
However, masks will still be required for ACT high school students, even after Canberra’s rules are relaxed.
Otherwise, similar restrictions will be in place in the nation’s capital as in New South Wales, with masks only required in high-risk areas.
Victoria will have to wait a few more hours for state mask mandates to be removed.
Staff at hospitality venues will still be required to wear masks indoors, while students in Years Three to Six will be required to wear masks in class.
However, the same mask rules will not apply to high school students in the state.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said earlier this week that mask rules would remain for some primary school students for the time being due to the relatively low level of vaccination among the cohort.
Masks will be required in high-risk locations, as well as for outdoor gatherings where more than 30,000 people attend.
On Friday, 27 deaths from COVID-19 were reported, including 11 in Victoria, seven in Queensland, six in New South Wales, two in South Africa and one in Tasmania.
Friday saw more than 23,000 COVID infections.
Among them are 1,043 in Western Australia, the highest one-day total in the state since the start of the pandemic.
The state’s hard border is set to fall next week, after months of isolation from the rest of the country.
There have been 7,583 cases in NSW, 6,580 in Victoria, 5,440 in Queensland, 1,714 in SA, 851 in Tasmania and 773 in the ACT.