ScoMo urges caution on AstraZeneca for under 50s

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved to address the “rare event” of blood-clotting linked to COVID-19 vaccines and announced it will limit AstraZeneca doses given to those under 50.

The move comes following a series of recommendations handed down by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

ATAGI has advised the government to “prefer” Pfizer in adults under 50, who have not already received their first dosage.

The second recommendation is that AstraZeneca only be administered to those in that aged bracket if the benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual.

It was confirmed however that those who had already received their first AstraZeneca jab with no ill effects, would have the second dose as normal.

Speaking at the impromptu press conference Health Department Secretary and former Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said all vulnerable Australians would still be vaccinated by the middle of the year.

“The important thing is that all of the vulnerable people – those vulnerable to severe COVID – will be covered, as we planned, by the middle of the year,” Mr Murphy said.

“Clearly, when we move into the broader, younger population later on, we will have to recalibrate by re-prioritising some Pfizer for younger people, and we are now reviewing all of the vaccine purchases we’ve made.

“We have 51 million Novavax coming later in the year, we’re looking at when we can bring other vaccines forward, and continuing under the advice of the committee, our Chair, to look at all our vaccine portfolio.”

The advisory board looked in to the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several European countries paused its use over links to blood clots.

As of March 31, The European Medicines Agency (EMA) identified 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) — 44 of them in Europe — among 9.2 million given doses of AstraZeneca.

The UK medical regulator also said on Saturday, local time, that out of 30 people who suffered rare blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, seven had died.

Importantly Mr Morrison said in tonight’s conference that all advice received suggested the instances only occurred following the first dose and not the second.

Mr Morrison said the advice was taken out of “an abundance of caution”.

“It’s a caution that is being exercised consistently with many other countries around the world, and we would expect to see that also continue in other countries now making similar decisions,” he said.

More to come

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