The Australian government has secured an additional 20 million Pfizer vaccines, after the AstraZeneca vaccine was associated with blood clots in people under the age of 50.
The new 20 million doses are in addition to 20 million already secured, meaning Australia is on track to receive 40 million Pfizer vaccines this year.
Only 1 million of the original 20 million Pfizer doses have been delivered to Australia so far, according to the ABC.
The decision to make Pfizer the preferred vaccine for under-50s came after Australia’s top vaccine and medical regulators met to discuss the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the ABC.
The Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at minus 70 degrees, is now the preferred vaccine for people under 50 years of age in Australia.
In a rapidly evolving situation, a NSW Health spokesman announced on Friday morning the state would “temporarily suspend” administering the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 50 to give clinicians time to update consent information.
A short time later, vaccination to all aged groups resumed.
“As of a few hours ago, everybody over 50 years of age is continuing to receive the vaccine in NSW and from Monday, those under 50 who choose to have the vaccine can do so,” said NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the new changes to the vaccination rollout mean the state’s mass vaccination centres are more important than ever.
“It may well make it even more important that we’ve got a mass vaccination centre because if there are any delays, then having that mass vaccination centre is going to assist when we really do get clarity on how we’re to proceed with the vaccines,” Hazzard said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reassured Australians about the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying it will continue to play an important role in protecting the nation’s most vulnerable.
He told a press conference there was “no ban or prohibition” on the AstraZeneca vaccine, and millions of Australians are still expected to receive it.
The AMA has welcomed the government’s quick response to new scientific evidence.
“The system has worked as it should. The expert advice has been given and the Government is acting in line with it,” said AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid.
He said the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 50 is considered “very safe” and “the benefits vastly outweigh any risks”.
“The clotting seen in few patients around the world is extremely rare, quite separate to normal thrombosis, and occurs at about 1 in 250,000.
“By comparison, if you contract COVID-19 the risk of dying is much higher.
“This setback may slow down the vaccine rollout, but it also means the rollout is based on the best advice possible – it is not a race to the finish line.”