Less than two weeks ago Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine will only be recommended for Australians aged 60 and over after a 52-year-old woman from New South Wales died from a blood clot. The NSW woman was the second person to die from blood clots likely linked to the vaccine.
However, on Monday night Prime Minister Scott Morrison came out saying that those under 60 who want to get the AstraZeneca jab are now encouraged to talk to their GPs, paving the way for more adults to get vaccinated so long as they are willing to take on the small risk of a blood clot.
“If they are willing to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so. So the answer is yes, they can go and do that,” he said at the time. “We will be implementing a new no-fault indemnity scheme for general practitioners who administer Covid-19 vaccines. So this relates to encouraging Australians to go and check in to their GP about the vaccination.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuck has now hit out at Morrison in a press conference Wednesday morning, slamming the prime minister’s rash decision.
“We want Queenslanders to get vaccinated. But there is some clear guidelines that have been put in place by the chief health officer, ATAGI, and the AMA,” she said.
“And there has been no national cabinet decision about providing AstraZeneca to the under 40s. Let me say that again – there’s been no national cabinet decision about providing AstraZeneca to the under 40s. National cabinet said that there was an indemnity for doctors. So, that is a very clear that national cabinet did not make that decision.
“So my message to Queenslanders today, is please listen to Dr Young and listen to the health experts when it comes to the vaccine.”
Deputy Premier Steven Miles echoed Palaszcuck’s comments telling under-60s not to listen to the advice of Morrison. “The Queensland government will only provide to people the vaccine that is medically recommended for them. We will not ignore the health advice,” he said. “For the prime minister to attempt to overrule the medical advice and provide a vaccine that is not recommended for people under 60 puts Queenslanders at risk.
“There are some discussions that the Commonwealth may even provide their own vaccination hubs so they can get AstraZeneca vaccine out to younger people despite that vaccine not being recommended and that would be very risky.”
Jeannette Young has also questioned the prime minister’s announcement, saying: “Well, I haven’t been able to talk to him and to understand his thought processes.
“The premier announced in National Cabinet that there wasn’t a discussion, so I genuinely don’t understand his processes. I know an urgent meeting has been called by the Commonwealth today with chief health officers to talk this through, so I’m sure I will find out more.”
The sledging from the Queensland government comes a day after the Australian Medical Association (AMA) responded to Morrison’s announcement. The president of the AMA, Dr Omar Khorshid, told Guardian Australia on Tuesday that Morrison’s announcement took them by surprise.
“It took us by surprise, and it’s hard to know how to take that announcement because I think it’s going to be a limited number of people to take it up, given that they would be going against the expert Atagi recommendation,” he said.
“Our recommendation is still really for patients to follow the Atagi advice. Be patient and have the Atagi-recommended vaccine when it’s available. I am certainly still backing the expert advice at this stage.”