COVID-19

Gov orders immediate review of vaccine

The advice comes as more evidence has linked the Astra-Zeneca vaccine to rare blood clots.The federal government has demanded Australia’s immunisation advisory group and drug regulator – which met on Wednesday about the issue – immediately consider the latest vaccination findings from Europe and the UK.Their advice will then be provided to the Australia’s expert medical panel, and the Commonwealth later on Thursday evening, as well as discussed with leaders in national cabinet on Friday. The nation’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said people’s safety and the health advice remained their top priorities. “The AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective and very safe for most people,” Prof Kelly told ABC. “There is this extremely rare event which appears to be associated with that particular vaccine in some people, four per million.”Prof Kelly said European drug regulator has highlighted women under the age of 60 being at higher risk of side effects but did not make any further recommendations. The UK has also advised that an alternative be used for 18-29 year olds, if available, saying the benefits of the jab compared to the risks of COVID-19 was more “finely balanced” in that age group. “Those two recommendations will be brought to the table today and looked at in the Australian context,” Prof Kelly said. “We are looking and have continued to look for alternative supplies and for increasing supplies.“Novavax will become available through the second half of the year providing they get through their second hurdles of approval.”Prof Kelly said any developments regarding vaccine side effects, even if they were extremely rare, affected confidence in the vaccine.Depending on the advice from Australian authorities, Prof Kelly said authorities would be looking to release communication to reassure people that the AstraZeneca jab was effective and safe.Scott Morrison urged people to maintain perspective on the issue, adding seven to 10 people in 10,000 on the contraceptive pill were at risk of deep vein thrombosis. “We need to consider the positive benefits (of the vaccine),” the prime minister said. “We have got the best people in the world looking at these issues to give us the medical expert advice.”Mr Morrison said there was no advice to suggest there would be any changes to the rollout of the vaccine.He remained tight lipped on whether Australia would give under 30s a different vaccine, or follow Europe and put new warning labels on vaccines.But Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie said people under 30 were already among the “most hesitant” group. “This is not going to encourage them to line up and take that AstraZeneca, which is really unfortunate,” Senator Lambie told Today. “This whole giving out the vaccines around Australia is turning into an absolute cluster.“It is very slow rollout (which is) terribly concerning. If we get a spread again then that is going to be a real worry.”Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday said Australians just want certainty about when they are going to be vaccinated.He said the government should have more vaccine deals instead of putting all its eggs all in one basket.“International best practice is five or six,” Mr Albanese said. “Here we know that there were just three deals done by the federal government.”

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