Daniel McCulloch and Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)
Doctors are urging people aged under 60 to wait for the Pfizer vaccine if they can, despite a surprise announcement from the prime minister that any adult who wants the AstraZeneca jab can have it.
Scott Morrison’s snap decision blindsided the Australian Medical Association and contradicted official advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
ATAGI has recommended AstraZeneca only be made available to people aged over 60, with Pfizer to be given to all other adults.
AMA president Omar Khorshid is urging people to follow the expert advice and have the recommended vaccine when it is available.
Health Minister Greg Hunt insists health advice for the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has not changed, despite phones ringing off the hook at GP clinics nationwide.
The federal government has provided doctors with legal protection to vaccinate adults of all ages, sparking a rush of younger people keen to have the jab.
Mr Hunt rejected suggestions the government had overhauled its vaccination strategy to speed up the rollout.
“There’s simply a recognition the access for those who wish to make an informed, consent decision can be broad and consistent with the supply,” he said.
People willing to take the AstraZeneca shots are able to do so after consulting with their GP to discuss the remote risk of rare blood clots.
Two people have died from the clotting disorder out of more than 3.6 million doses of AstraZeneca administered.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said doctors were still trying to understand the changes.
She believes most doctors will follow expert medical advice to not give the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged under 60.
“Most doctors will all be following the ATAGI advice, that is the scientific advice, it has been worked through with data and so forth,” Dr Price told Network Seven.
“If people are still insistent that they want to have AstraZeneca, then it’s up to the doctor and patient to work out how they feel about that.
“Generally the younger you are, the less likely anyone is going to proceed with that.”
State premiers are reluctant to endorse the decision, which the prime minister announced after a meeting of national cabinet.
They have also blamed new virus outbreaks on the federal government, warning they will continue to impose lockdowns and border closures until a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated.
Victoria and Queensland are calling on the federal government to halve the number of returned travellers in hotel quarantine until the outbreaks are under control.
More than 12 million people are under lockdown across NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Just over seven per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated, with the country lagging behind all other major economies.
Hundreds more pharmacies are poised to enter the national vaccine rollout.
Private sector companies including banks, mining giants and other large businesses will also be enlisted later this year with a request to vaccinate their staff.