Confusion continues over whether people under 60 should approach their GPs for an AstraZeneca dose following conflicting advice from the states and territories and the Commonwealth.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has described comments from the Prime Minister about who can take Astra Zeneca as “a captain’s call” that caught many people off guard, including GPs and other first ministers.
Following a National Cabinet meeting on Monday night (28 June), Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while there was a preference for AstraZeneca to be made available to people over 60, “the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine”.
“If you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP,” he said.
When asked directly if changes to the indemnity for COVID-19 vaccines meant people under 40 would be able to talk to their GPs and get the jab immediately, Mr Morrison said, “if they wish to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so”.
Today, Mr Barr said, “there was nothing agreed at National Cabinet [but] I think technically it was not required to be agreed by National Cabinet”.
“The discussions focused on the supply of particular vaccines. The relationship between the Commonwealth and the GP network … is not a relationship that states and territories have an involvement in.
“I would not have expected it would have come to National Cabinet for a decision, and it was not a National Cabinet decision. It is one that the Prime Minister has made on his own accord.”
Mr Barr said Canberrans should follow the health advice on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) website.
An ATAGI statement from 8 April reads: “AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 50 years where the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.”
But Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young seemingly contradicted the Commonwealth’s encouragement for people under 40 to talk to their GPs about receiving AstraZeneca.
“We are not in a position that I need to ask young, fit, healthy people to put their health on the line getting a vaccine that could potentially significantly harm them,” she said.
“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, even if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also said there had been no national cabinet decision about AstraZeneca being given to people under 40. She urged Queenslanders to listen to Dr Young.
But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said people under the age of 60 who wanted to receive an AstraZeneca jab should talk to their GP.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith maintains that, in line with the ATAGI advice, anybody under the age of 60 who wants to get an AstraZeneca vaccine should contact a GP to discuss this option.
But an ACT Government spokesperson said the Territory would not administer AstraZeneca to people under 60 at its vaccination hubs.
“Having a conversation about the risks and benefits of a vaccine is best placed with a GP who better understands the health circumstances of an individual and can help a patient to make an informed decision,” the spokesperson said.
“A mass vaccination clinic is not an appropriate place for a person to have a detailed risk discussion about the vaccine. We do not want to put additional pressure on healthcare workers within our clinics who are administering many vaccinations each day.
“The ACT Government position remains that any person who has a concern about a COVID-19 vaccine should speak to their GP or healthcare provider before making an appointment.”