People under the age of 40 have started booking AstraZeneca appointments at local general practitioners following comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night (28 June).
Mr Morrison said anyone under the age of 40 will be able to request the AstraZeneca vaccine from their GP as he announced revised indemnity arrangements for COVID-19 vaccines following the National Cabinet meeting.
“If you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP,” Mr Morrison said after National Cabinet.
Australian health authorities have recommended people under the age of 60 preference the Pfizer vaccine over AstraZeneca due to the remote risk of blood clots. But now, the Therapeutic Goods Administration says any Australian over the age of 18 can access the AstraZeneca vaccine if they give informed consent after meeting with their GP or qualified doctor.*
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said most GPs have welcomed the indemnity and the reassurance that they can have that conversation with their patients.
“We are really talking about people who have an ongoing relationship with their GP,” she said.
“Most of those conversations are going to be an existing patient coming and talking about what their relative risk is, what their enthusiasm for the vaccination is and lets have an informed conversation and get consent and do this.”
Kingston Foreshore Medical has already had a jump in callers this morning, mostly from people under 40, requesting bookings for the AstraZeneca jab.
The clinic usually administers about 20 doses a day, three days a week. While there are still some appointments available tomorrow, the clinic has booked two to three times the number of people it usually would in a week.
Around nine people are booked in a typical week, but the clinic fielded more than a dozen calls on Tuesday morning (29 June) following Mr Morrison’s confirmation last night.
Andrea, 27, was one of the people who called up first thing this morning, saying it was all about risk versus benefit.
“We have been told since the pandemic began that vaccines were the ticket out of this, end of story,” she said.
“Could I wait for Pfizer or Moderna to become available? Sure.
“But if everyone does, we will be in lockdown yo-yo land for far longer.”
Around 221,000 Australians received their second dose of AstraZeneca last week, the week after advice was updated to include people between the ages of 50 and 59 in the Pfizer rollout.
Mr Morrison said an additional 236 GPs have been brought online to administer COVID-19 vaccines, which brings the total number of GPs administering the vaccine to 5085 across Australia.
There are around 70 GP clinics administering AstraZeneca jabs in the ACT.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he would prefer to have more people vaccinated and that more people should have been vaccinated in time for winter.
“The experience is … the virus spreads more in a winter environment because we are indoors more,” he said.
Although the ACT is not experiencing the same level of vaccine hesitancy that other jurisdictions are, Mr Barr said.
“The statistics are very good in terms of vaccine take up in the ACT,” he said.
Almost 155,000 jabs had been administered in the ACT as of 26 June. Just under 10 per cent of the Territory’s population above the age of 16 were fully vaccinated as of 24 June.
Canberra Health Services’ chief operations officer Cathie O’Neill said people had been coming out to the ACT’s vaccination clinics in droves.
“We have not had to do any significant marketing for our appointments which is great,” she said.
Both of the ACT’s Pfizer hubs have been booked out until the start of August, but appointments remain at the Calvary AstraZeneca vaccination clinics and through Canberra GPs.
People under 40 cannot book into the ACT-run AstraZeneca hub; they must book in to receive the jab through a GP.
*An earlier version of this article said anyone over the age of 16 could access the AstraZeneca vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for people 18 years and older.