On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said people under 60 years of age can talk to their GPs about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is widely available in Australia due to our capacity to manufacture the medication.
“The ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) advice talks about a preference for AstraZeneca to be … preferred for those over 60, but the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Morrison said.
“So, if you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP.”
However, Pfizer remains the preferred vaccine for anyone under 60.
Morrison also said the government will implement a new “no fault indemnity scheme” for GPs who administer COVID-19 vaccines, which the Australian Medical Association’s Dr Omar Khoshid has welcomed as “good news”.
But now Western Australia and Queensland are pushing back, saying the ATAGI has not approved AstraZeneca for under 40s, and they said there is significant uncertainty about Pfizer supplies.
Queensland: Under 40s won’t receive AstraZeneca
Queensland’s Health Minister, Yvette D’Ath, warned on Wednesday that some of the state’s vaccination sites are expected to run out of the Pfizer vaccine as early as Monday, July 5.
“We are getting to that point that we’ll have to start prioritising only second doses if the Commonwealth does not have any vaccines left,” she said.
D’Ath said requests for additional supply of the Pfizer vaccine were knocked back.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, went further, saying: “I do not want under 40s to get AstraZeneca.”
“I don’t want 18-year-olds in Queensland dying from a clotting illness.”
“We’ve had very few deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia of people under the age of 50, and wouldn’t it be terrible if our first 18 year-old-death related to the pandemic died because of the vaccine.”
Dr Young added, “We’ve seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome.”
Western Australia: Under 40s “shouldn’t do it”
Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan said the medical advice he has received is that people under 40 should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said while the Prime Minister has said it was up to individuals, the Western Australian government’s “health advice is they shouldn’t do it”.
McGowan said it is “difficult” to roll out a vaccination program during a pandemic and he didn’t want to be “too negative” about it.
Western Australia is also dealing with the rapid-spreading Delta variant.
NSW: Talk to your GP
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said those under 40 should get the Pfizer vaccine, but when Pfizer is not available they can talk to their GP about AstraZeneca.
“The important thing is to follow health advice and the advice in New South Wales says if you’re over 60, get the AstraZeneca vaccine. If you are under 40, we welcome you to get the Pfizer vaccine, which is mainly delivered through the New South Wales hubs … Beyond that, you need to go to your GP.”
NSW’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said ATAGI has recommended that over 60s can get both vaccines, but for those under 60, Pfizer is the preferred vaccine.
“There is limited access to Pfizer throughout the state because of the particular ways in which it has to be managed,” she said.
She said she was “looking forward” to increased Pfizer supplies.
“However, in terms of AstraZeneca, it is important that ATAGI has said that people can make personal choices but they need to be informed,” Chant explained.
Chant said detailed risk discussions can not take place in mass vaccination clinics. “They are the best discussions to have with your general practitioner,” she said.
NSW has “good access” to AstraZeneca and GPs, who “know the family history, they know the particular circumstances”, are the best people to assess the risk and benefits of younger people taking the vaccine.
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