- Australians under 40 will soon be permitted access to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, if they first discuss the potential side effects with their GP.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Monday night, heralding a major turnaround to Australia’s vaccine program.
- Australian health authorities recommend the jab for those aged 60 and over, due to vanishingly rare blood clotting side effects exhibited in some younger recipients.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young says Australians under 40 should ideally wait for access to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed all Australian adults under the age of 40 can now access the AstraZeneca jab through their GP.
Addressing reporters on Monday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced eligibility for the AstraZeneca jab will be extended to hundreds of thousands of Australians previously locked out of the scheme.
“Well, if they wish to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so,” Morrison said of younger Australians seeking vaccination.
While the AstraZeneca vaccine was originally planned to form the backbone of Australia’s rollout, fears over an extremely rare blood clotting side effect led the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to formally recommend it only be administered to those over 50, before adjusting the age bracket to those over 60.
GPs will now be cleared to administer the jab to younger Australians after disclosing its uncommon side effects.
“Now, the ATAGI advice talks about a preference for AstraZeneca to be available and made available… those over 60,” Morrison told reporters.
“But the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. And so if you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP”.
Behind that overhaul is a new no-fault indemnity scheme, meaning GPs who administer the vaccine to younger Australians will not be held personally liable if a younger patient experiences rare adverse reactions.
But in a media conference on Tuesday afternoon, QLD chief health officer Jeannette Young said the clinical advice remains the same: that younger Australians should wait for their chance to receive the Pfizer jab, likely much later in the year.
“That’s the clinical advice, but there are some people who have been asking to get AstraZeneca, although the clinical advice is that they should not, preferentially should not,” Young told reporters in Brisbane.
Australians over 60 will still be prioritised for the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the nation’s smaller supply of the Pfizer vaccine targeted at groups including frontline health care, border control, and quarantine workers, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged between 16 and 49, and those with underlying health conditions or living with a disability.
Monday night’s announcement marks a major turnaround for the vaccination program, which has been reshaped by shifting ATAGI advice, supply chain restrictions, and logistical shortfalls across the nation.
Some 7.37 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Australia as of Sunday, with an estimated 7% of the Australian population fully vaccinated against the virus.
Those figures fall well behind the federal government’s original and revised vaccination targets.
Also announced during the press conference was the call to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for aged care workers, nearly a full year after the virus first ravaged aged care environments across the country.
The federal government will provide $11 million in grants to ensure staff can take leave to receive the vaccine, Morrison said.
The news will be warmly received by younger Australians who accept the health advice pertaining to the AstraZeneca vaccine, and who may be experiencing yet another lockdown caused by fears of COVID-19 infections ripping through the nation’s largely unvaccinated community.
“The focus now is to continue to encourage people to come forward and get vaccinated,” Morrison added.
“AstraZeneca is there for people to get vaccinated, and there are many points of presence – over 5,000 GPs alone where you can get that done. And so, if people are concerned, as I’m sure they are, as I am, then I’d be encouraging them to go out and get that vaccination.”