HealthWorld

Australian civil servant pushes against AstraZeneca

The health director of the Australian state of Queensland advises adults under 40 not to get vaccinated against the AstraZeneca coronavirus due to the risk of a rare blood clotting disorder, although the Australian government makes these vaccines available to all adults.
Queensland Health Director Jeannette Young said Wednesday that younger adults should wait for the scarce Pfizer vaccine to become available. Young says AstraZeneca, with only 42 active coronavirus cases in Queensland, is not worth it for younger adults.

The federal government decided Monday to make AstraZeneca available to all adults as concerns grow about clusters of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is believed to be more contagious.

Australian authorities still say that Pfizer is the preferred choice for people under the age of 60. Australians have only two vaccines to choose from, and locally made AstraZeneca is plentiful.

“No, I don’t want children under 40 to have AstraZeneca because they are at higher risk, it is rare, but they are at higher risk of developing this rare clotting syndrome,” Young said.

“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland to die of a bleeding disease that, if he had COVID, he probably wouldn’t die,” Young added.

Australia’s vaccine adviser, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, known as ATAGI, recommends Pfizer because of the risk of clotting in people under the age of 60.

AstraZeneca had been recommended for all adults until a 48-year-old Australian woman died of blood clots in April.

The vaccine was then recommended for people over the age of 50 until a 52-year-old died in May.

As concerns about new infections mounted, the federal government decided Monday to make AstraZeneca available to all adults and exempt the physicians who administer it from the lawsuits.

Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan said his administration had taken a “different approach” towards the federal government.

“It shouldn’t be under 40,” McGowan said, referring to AstraZeneca. Health Secretary Greg Hunt said the ATAGI Council remains the “guiding light” of his administration. But ATAGI indicated that AstraZeneca could be given to people under the age of 60 “for whom Pfizer is not available.” The conditions included that the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks and that the decision to take AstraZeneca was communicated.

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