As vaccine hesitancy rises across Australia, medical experts are warning over-50s not to delay their jabs in the hope they may be able to receive an alternative to AstraZeneca.
The warning comes after Minister for Health Greg Hunt caused a flurry of confusion on Wednesday after telling the ABC that over-50s could wait for Pfizer or Moderna doses to become available at the end of the year.
“Right now, we want to encourage everybody over-50 to be vaccinated as early as possible,” he said. “But we’ve been very clear that as supply increases later on in the year, there will be enough … mRNA [Pfizer] vaccines for every Australian.”
Hunt’s comments sparked concern among experts, with peak medical bodies urging all Australians to get vaccinated as soon as their turn comes, saying the benefits of the AstraZeneca jab far outweigh the risks.
Omar Khorshid Australian Medical Association (AMA) said Australia has an “outstanding record on vaccination, with some of the highest rates of vaccine take-up in the world”, protecting the community from a wide range of serious illness. He said Australians could approach vaccination for Covid-19 with the “same confidence”.
“To date, there have been over 160 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide and a death toll exceeding 3.3 million people,” he said. “It is not sustainable for Australia to rely on international border closures, restrictions, and potential lockdowns to protect the community from Covid-19.
“The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in 139 countries and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 90 countries. The evidence from the hundreds of millions of doses delivered in these countries is that both are protecting people from serious illness and hospitalisation and helping to stop the spread of Covid-19.”
Dr Kym Jenkins Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) chair said while Australia had avoided much of the devastating pandemic fallout seen overseas, it would not be out of the woods until the majority of the population was vaccinated.
“Vaccines, like other medicines, can have side effects and there have been a very small number of serious adverse events from Covid-19 vaccination that may understandably worry some people,” she said. “However, the community can be reassured by knowing these are extremely rare, and that the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation have moved swiftly to address any safety concerns.
“Australia’s frontline doctors, who know the risks of Covid-19, have come forward in large numbers to receive either the Oxford-Astra Zeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines.”
The comments come after a survey by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed the extent of Australia’s vaccination hesitancy, with almost a third of those surveyed saying they won’t be getting the jab. The survey showed that doubts around the vaccine were stronger now than they were in February this year and September last year, before reports emerged regarding a link between the AstraZeneca jab and blood clots.
On Thursday, the TGA announced six new cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
There have now been a total of 24 cases of the rare blood clots from 2.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines given. Of these, one person has died while another is in intensive care and the rest are stable and recovering.
Currently, more than 3.7 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered across Australia including a new daily record of 95,530 doses on May 19. However, only about 210,000 people have received two doses, which is about one per cent of the nation’s population.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.