The Morrison government insists the country’s vaccine rollout remains on track to deliver first doses to all Australians by the end of the year, after fresh health advice forced another change to the trouble-plagued program.
More than two million people aged 50-59 who were previously advised to take AstraZeneca vaccine are now being told to take the Pfizer jab, a decision that experts warn will further strain supplies and could lead to a spike in vaccine hesitancy.
On Thursday, the health minister, Greg Hunt, announced the government had made the decision based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group, which said only over-60s should now take AstraZeneca because of 12 new cases of a rare, but sometimes serious, blood condition.
Another 815,000 people over the age of 50 who have had only the first of two AstraZeneca doses are also caught up in the confusion, with the chief medical officer urging them to go ahead with the second dose despite the changed advice.
The chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said that while the “risk benefit equation” had now changed for the over 50s because of the reported incidence of the blood clotting condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), those over the age of 60 should continue to take up the AstraZeneca on offer.
“The benefit of AstraZeneca in the over 60s remains much higher than the risk of this particularly rare but sometimes serious syndrome,” Kelly said.
“People over 60 should still be rolling out to their GP or wherever they are getting their AstraZeneca vaccine and getting that first dose.”
He said that for the people aged 50-59 who had received just one dose of AstraZeneca, they should feel comfortable going ahead with the final shot.
“Anyone who has had a first dose of AstraZeneca without a problem should feel very confident to have their second dose and should keep that booking,” Kelly said, citing UK data which showed the incidence after the second dose was one in 1.5 million.
Professor Julie Leask, a social scientist with the Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Sydney, said ATAGI had made the right decision but “The implication of this recommendation is that it will increase demand on the Pfizer vaccine,” she said. [VIA]