ATAGI updates AstraZeneca advice as NSW cases increase

Paul Hayes

24/07/2021 5:47:37 PM

All adults in Greater Sydney should ‘strongly consider’ the vaccine amid the worsening COVID outbreak, the advisory group said.

ATAGI boxes
ATAGI advises all adults in Greater Sydney – including under-60s – to ‘strongly consider’ AstraZeneca amid the ongoing NSW outbreak. (Image: AAP)

Updated at 8.30 pm Monday 26 July to reflect latest COVID cases and deaths in NSW.

Sydney’s deteriorating COVID situation has prompted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to again update its advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying all adults – including under-60s – ‘should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca’.
‘This is on the basis of the increasing risk of COVID-19 and ongoing constraints of [Pfizer] supplies,’ the advisory board said in a statement released on Saturday afternoon.
‘In addition, people in areas where outbreaks are occurring can receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose, rather than the usual 12 weeks, to bring forward optimal protection.’
ATAGI previously recommended AstraZeneca be limited to people 50 and older in April, and then to people 60 and older in June. It also recommended a shortened interval between AstraZeneca doses during ‘significant’ outbreaks earlier this month.
The latest updated advice came on the same day, Saturday 24 July, that NSW recorded 163 new COVID cases, 45 of which were in the community during their infection period. The 163 cases represent the highest daily tally since the state’s Delta-fuelled outbreak began last month.

NSW has since recorded days of 141 cases on Sunday (62 in the community while infectious) and 145 on Monday (51 in the community while infectious). The state also recorded two COVID deaths on Sunday, including a woman in her 30s with no pre-existing health conditions, and two deaths on Monday, bringing the number of deaths associated with the current current outbreak to 10.
‘The outbreak in NSW continues to grow and the risk of disease, particularly in the Greater Sydney area, is likely to continue to be significant over coming weeks,’ ATAGI said.
‘ATAGI reaffirms our previous advice that in a large outbreak the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.’
For people outside Sydney, however, ATAGI is still advising that Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for under-60s.
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, highlighted the new advice when talking to reporters on Saturday. He said the fact the Delta strain of the virus appears to be a more serious risk for younger people is a strong justification for the updated advice.
‘It is becoming apparent that the Delta variant may be more severe than the original strain of the virus,’ he said.
‘The proportion of infected people less than 60 years of age requiring hospitalisation now appears to be higher than what was reported in outbreaks with the original strain.
‘So this also reinforces the benefit of protection with either vaccine.’
ATAGI’s new advice also comes after two more Australian deaths were linked to AstraZeneca on Thursday 22 July. There have now been six Australian deaths related to the vaccine out of more than 6.1 million administered doses.

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