Australia will only give the AstraZeneca vaccine to over-60s after seven people in their fifties developed rare blood clots due to the jab in the past week.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advised Health Minister Greg Hunt to increase the minimum age for the Oxford University jab from 50 on Thursday.
The decision came after 12 new clotting cases emerged in the past week, with seven patients in their fifties and five over 60.
Two people have died in Australia after developing an extremely rare but serious blot clotting condition due to the jab, including a 52-year-old woman.
Mr Hunt said everybody aged 40-59 is now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and he still expects the whole population to be offered a jab by the end of the year.
Health officials urged over 50s who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca to proceed with their second because the second jab is almost ten times less risky.
For example, the UK has reported a clotting rate of 1.5 per million second doses compared to a reported risk of 14.2 per million first doses.
Australia’s vaccine advisors have recommended AstraZeneca vaccine only be given to over-60s after fears of blood clots stopped thousands from getting the jab
The Health Minister said everybody aged 40-59 would be eligible for the Pfizer jab
Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said older Australians should continue to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘To those 3.8 million Australians who’ve had a first dose of AstraZeneca, go get your second dose,’ he said.
‘It’s a completely different picture for second doses.’
Mr Hunt said it was a ‘conservative’ decision to advise AstraZeneca jabs be restricted to Australians over 60, based on a risk-benefit analysis that takes into account the fact older Australians are more likely to die from Covid-19.
‘The UK, for example, has an age range of 40 and above, South Korea 30 and above, and Germany has no age limits after 18 and above,’ he said on Thursday.
As of last week, more than 3.6 million doses of AstraZeneca have been administered nationwide since the rollout kicked off in February.
AstraZeneca, which is directly linked to the deaths of two Australians, is currently only on offer to Aussies 50 and older due to the low risk of blood clotting
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday she was aware the advisory group had been meeting over the past few days.
‘Those experts have the best information,’ she said.
The 50-year-old premier got the AstraZeneca jab in March.
‘What is really important is for us to follow the health advice and when I got my vaccine the health advice was and still is that anyone over 50 should go to the GP and get the AstraZeneca,’ she said.
Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy last week said hesitancy had been a significant issue after extremely rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘Patients really have needed that guiding hand of the general practitioner to be able to talk them through this that I’m not sure pharmacists do,’ he told ABC radio last week.
He said there were about 4,600 practices that could be called on to join the rollout and further boost the pace of jabs.
One in four Australian adults have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with more than six million jabs administered across the country.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has compared AstraZeneca-linked deaths to those naturally caused by blood clots.
‘To date, the observed number of deaths reported after vaccination is actually less than the expected number of deaths,’ the TGA said in a statement.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was a ‘conservative’ decision to advise AstraZeneca jabs be restricted to Australians over 60
One in four Australian adults have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with more than six million jabs administered across the country
‘Each year in Australia, there are about 160,000 deaths, equating to 13,300 a month or 3,050 each week. In the most recent reporting year, two-thirds of these deaths were in people aged 75 years and over.’
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the clotting was extremely rare and doctors had a lot more information on how to diagnose and treat the condition.
‘We will continue to learn from these unfortunate circumstances and will tie it into advice to all practitioners,’ he said.
In a statement, AstraZeneca said patient safety remained its highest priority.
‘We continue to work closely with the TGA and other regulators around the world as they investigate these very rare cases.’
Cabinet minister Peter Dutton said the death was a tragedy but needed to be put in perspective, comparing it to the millions of deaths from coronavirus around the world.
A 52-year-old NSW woman died last week after developing a blood clots condition linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine