12 April 2021

Young Canberrans shepherded towards Pfizer vaccine: here's what's changed

| Dominic Giannini
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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said people under-50 will receive the Pfizer jab at the Garran hub. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Canberrans under the age of 50 will be shepherded towards the Pfizer vaccine at the Garran vaccination hub instead of receiving the AstraZeneca jab after concerns were raised over blood clotting in rare cases.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith confirmed that people under the age of 50 who are booked into the Garran hub, where both vaccines are administered, will be given the Pfizer vaccine.

The ACT Government is still working out how to manage people under the age of 50 who are booked in to get vaccinated by their GPs who administer the AstraZeneca jab, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We will be working through that over the next few days,” she said.

“The [Therapeutic Goods Administration] advice is that it is preferred not to provide AstraZeneca to people under 50 unless the benefit outweighs the risk, and that is a conversation people with underlying health conditions will want to have with their GPs.

“They may choose to go ahead because they see the potential consequences of getting COVID as being more significant than the potential to be subject to this very rare blood-clotting event.”

The change in the vaccine’s rollout came after the Commonwealth Government announced a preference for the Pfizer jab last week following advice from Australia’s vaccine advisory panel.

Rare cases of blood clots have been linked to the AstraZeneca jab around the world, with Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly warning that clots can appear in between four to six cases per million.

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Australian medical authorities recommended that people over the age of 50 continue to receive the AstraZeneca jab, with the risk of clotting decreasing with age and the benefits outweighing the risk.

Those under the age of 50 in NSW and ACT will still be able to get the AstraZeneca shot but will be provided with an updated consent form.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said there is no moratorium or ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine for under-50s, with the advice being a preference for one vaccine over another.

The Commonwealth has ordered an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, doubling the number of Pfizer doses due in Australia by the end of the year. Ms Stephen-Smith said the extra order had not impacted the number of Pfizer vaccines the ACT received over the weekend, with the 3000 doses that arrived being on par with what the Territory expected.

“We continue to hold a stock of Pfizer vaccines and AstraZeneca vaccines to ensure we can smooth out the appointments and the vaccination program here in the ACT,” she said.

“Our primary focus here is to deliver a safe and effective vaccination program that continues to build community confidence. It is really important that we maintain the confidence of the community in getting vaccinated.

“It is our pathway out of the pandemic.”

NSW briefly halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 50 on Friday morning (9 April), but people in this age group will be able to choose whether they have the vaccination from today (Monday, 12 April).

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was up to people to assess the risk for themselves and make their own decision.

But the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association advised doctors in the state against administering the vaccine for people under the age of 50 except in exceptional circumstances.

A pause on the vaccine for people under-50 continues in Victoria while the state works to translate information and consent forms from the Commonwealth into other languages, implement new training for staff to talk about the risks and address indemnity issues that have arisen.

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Ms Stephen-Smith denied that there had been inconsistency with the vaccine’s rollout.

“There is consistency in that we are all following the [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] and the [Therapeutic Goods Administration’s] advice,” she said.

“The [difference between jurisdictions] is primarily a management issue. The ACT is a small jurisdiction with one ACT Government vaccination hub and the general practices who were making their own arrangements in relation to the appointments they had coming up.

“It made sense for larger jurisdictions to place a pause so they can really understand the appointments they had coming up.”

Officials in the ACT worked overnight to review what appointments they had the next day and move people into the appropriate streams, she said.

For more information about the vaccine’s rollout in the ACT, visit www.covid19.act.gov.au.

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Warren Brompton8:15 am 14 Apr 21

“… the risk of clotting decreasing with age…”
This is incorrect.

According to the vaccination fact sheet:
“In the countries that have reported TTS, more cases have occurred in adults under 60 years of age compared to older adults, and in women compared to men. However it is not yet clear if age and sex are risk factors, since the AstraZeneca vaccine was preferentially given to younger people in some countries, and since women make up a large proportion of the healthcare workers that were prioritised for vaccination.”

There’s a lot of statistical misunderstanding and not enough clarity with the data available.

For example, over half of the deaths in the UK from blood clots are under 50 but how many people under 50 received the AZ vaccine vs how many over 50 received it?

For those of you unsure about the age recommendations it’s based on a risk analysis comparison of benefits of the vaccine protecting against covid versus the risk of side effects. Here in Aus we currently have a far lower chance of getting covid so the benefits of the vaccine are currently lower than in the UK where covid is still widespread. I.e In the UK you’re far more likely to suffer from covid than get serious side effects and so should take whatever vaccine is available.

Warren Brompton8:18 am 14 Apr 21

Maurice makes a valid point though that the chance of getting a blood clot is still statistically extremely small, and yes lower than getting run over. But nevertheless still there. You need to decide whether or not you cross the road.

According to Healthdirect.gov.au you are more at risk of blood clots if you’re over 65 years old. So if there is a higher risk of blood clotting from AZ, why give AZ to the age group at higher risk of blood clotting?

HiddenDragon7:34 pm 12 Apr 21

“The [Therapeutic Goods Administration] advice is that it is preferred not to provide AstraZeneca to people under 50 unless the benefit outweighs the risk, and that is a conversation people with underlying health conditions will want to have with their GPs.”

Sounds a bit like buck-passing and backside-covering when public statements to date by health authorities indicate that there are no discernible individual risk factors for the clotting reaction with the AZ vaccine.

There’s even less explanation for why the magic age in Australia is 50, compared to decisions made elsewhere.

Be interested to hear that answer to.

The figure varies so much around the world. UK it’s under 30’s and saw much of mainland Europe it is over 60’s.

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