AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot concerns: Change to Australia’s rollout | Alds

AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot concerns: Change to Australia’s rollout

Urgent new medical advice has prompted the federal government to “recalibrate” its coronavirus vaccine strategy, likely delaying the rollout even further.

Most Australians under 50 will no longer be recommended to use the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine because of concerns around blood clots, a rare side effect from that product.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a late press conference on Thursday to announce the change, based on advice from The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

Health Secretary Brendan Murphy broke down what the new advice would mean for the vaccination program.

“For phase one, which is vulnerable people, we will pretty much continue as we are,” he said.

“Those over 70 and 80 will continue to get AstraZeneca at their GPs and be confident in its efficacy and its safety.

“For those healthcare workers under 50, they will now be prioritised to Pfizer, and that might delay that particular phase of 1b. But that’s the only phase that might be delayed.”

However major questions remain unanswered as to what the new advice will mean for the latter stages of the rollout, when the bulk of the Australian population is supposed to get inoculated against the virus.

That cohort will include younger adult Australians.

“This will take some time to work through, the implications,” Mr Morrison said.

ATAGI has looked at evidence from colleagues in Europe, where there have been a small but concerning number of cases where people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine have developed blood clots.

The government was advised that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given to people where the benefit outweigh the risks. Those would include older people, for whom the risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus is greater than for young people.

Mr Murphy said the recalibration was considered out of “an abundance of caution”, given only some four to six people in a million have been sickened by the vaccine.

A Victorian company that is already in the process of making AstraZeneca doses for use in Australia, CSL, will continue to produce those doses, the officials said.

“We still have a big need for AstraZeneca. It is going to be a really important vaccine to vaccinate a significant proportion of the population,” Mr Murphy said.

“So they will continue to make AstraZeneca.”

He also clarified the company can’t easily pivot to making a different type of vaccine.

Another coronavirus vaccine, Novavax, is in a “well advanced” stage of the expert approval process that would give it a green light for production and use in Australia, Mr Murphy said.

Mr Morrison said that Australia has administered 996,214 vaccine doses as of Wednesday’s tally, and that the Thursday numbers, to be revealed on Friday, would likely show the country has passed the one-million mark.

The updated advice is the latest in a series of setbacks for the government’s vaccine rollout, which has been severely delayed and marred by difficulties to obtain enough doses from overseas.

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