ATAGI recommends major change to vaccine rollout

Paul Hayes

8/04/2021 9:35:41 PM

Australian health authorities have recommended people under 50 receive the Pfizer vaccine rather than AstraZeneca.

Pfizer vaccine vial
Australia a contract in place for 20 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, though only 870,000 have so far arrived. (Image: AAP)

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised the Pfizer vaccine should be given to Australians aged under 50, after experts met to discuss ongoing concerns over the link between blood clots and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly made the announcement on Thursday night.
‘The use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults aged less than 50 years who have not already received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine,’ Professor Kelly said.
‘This is based both on the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age, and thus increased benefit of the vaccination, and the potentially lower – but not zero – risk of this rare event with increasing age.’
Professor Kelly explained that ATAGI announced further recommendations.
‘The second recommendation is that immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual’s circumstances,’ he said.
‘The third recommendation is people that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca [vaccine] without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose. This includes adults under the age of 50, and people who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of COVID-19 AstraZeneca should not be given the second dose.
‘So … all but one person that we’ve had so far in Australia are in that category – people that have had their first dose should safely have their second dose.
‘The final recommendation is that the Department of Health further develop and refine resources for informed consent that clearly convey the benefits and the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine for both immunisation providers and consumers of all ages, and that is underway.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to recommend Pfizer over AstraZeneca to a large section of the Australian population ‘will require some changes to the arrangements we have as part of the vaccination rollout’.
‘And this includes when we might expect our first doses, ultimately, to be able to be offered to all Australians,’ he said.
However, the Prime Minister was clear the recommendation does not preclude the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

‘This is not a directive. This is not an instruction,’ he said.

ATAGI and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have been working with international authorities to investigate the issue of thrombosis after a 44-year-old man in Melbourne was hospitalised with blood clots almost two weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency earlier this week said it found a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults.
‘There are very few cases of this extremely rare event that have happened anywhere in the world, but the ones we’ve seen, there’s definitely a tendency for the younger people [to develop clotting],’ Professor Kelly said on Thursday night
‘This is a rare event, but it is serious and can cause an up to 25% death rate when it occurs.’
Also speaking on Thursday night, Department of Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said AstraZeneca remains the recommended vaccine for people older than 50.
‘It is a vaccine that is very, very effective,’ he said.
AstraZeneca has long been considered the backbone of Australia’s COVID vaccination efforts, with the Federal Government having purchased 53.8 million doses of the vaccine, against 20 million Pfizer.
The Government has also secured 51 million doses of Novavax, though uncertainty remains as to when Australia will be able to access its allocation of the third vaccine candidate.

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Charlie   9/04/2021 8:28:20 AM

I think many people including over 50s will now likely wait till sufficient supplies are available of alternative vaccines so that they can make their own choice of which vaccine to have.
It may be irrational given the very small risk but I think that it is what will happen.
Choosing to get vaccinated is an active decision.
Having a car accident or getting covid is a passive random event out of one's control.

Dr Sharon Poh Choo Vasey   9/04/2021 10:07:14 AM

Agree it will cause all Australians to reconsider AZ vaccine in the light of low or no community transmission many will think it is not worth even the tiny risk of such a serious condition.

Dr Gobind Singh Duggal   18/04/2021 9:25:48 PM

it is sad people in Australia , over 70 virtualy have no choice, either to have AZ vaccine or wait till , god knows when Pfizer vaccine will be availlable, USA have choice of seven vaccine, people can choose what vaccine they like to have