The Australian government on Thursday changed its CCP virus immunisation advice to recommend that AstraZeneca only be recommended for people aged 60 and over.
This comes after experts found new evidence to suggest that there is a much higher risk of a rare but serious blood clot condition known as thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in the 50-59 age group.
As a result, only the Pfizer vaccination is to be recommended for those aged 59 and under.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) continues to recommend that AstraZeneca be used for people aged 60 and over based on the higher risk of illness and death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. There is also a lower risk of the TTS condition in that age group.
Between April and June 16, there have been 60 cases of confirmed TTS in Australia, with two deaths.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement that ATAGI continues to strongly recommend that people of all age groups who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca—without serious adverse effects—have their second dose of AstraZeneca.
The federal government will now fast-track the GP program to rapidly expand access to the Pfizer vaccine through doctors and an expanded number of access points.
It expects to have 70 clinics administering Pfizer by July 5, with a further 64 doing so by the end of July.
“From 5 July, we will start the progressive on-boarding of up to an initial 500 general practices to provide the Pfizer vaccine, including for people aged 40 to 59,” Hunt said.
“This will then expand up to a further 500 in the week commencing 12 July and then up to a further 300 in the week commencing 19 July.
“This expansion in Pfizer sites was planned to coincide with our highest expected arrival of Pfizer doses so far. During July, we expect to receive 2.8 million doses. We have reaffirmed today the delivery of 40 million doses of Pfizer vaccines during 2021.”
The federal government has already got 21 vaccination clinics running, which will be able to start accepting people aged 40-59 going forward as they are ready.
More than 50 percent of all CCP virus vaccinations have been administered by GPs.
There are 127,000 Australians aged 50-59 who are fully vaccinated, while 872,000 have had their first dose—of these, 815,000 have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Health Department also said that there are 2.1 million people who are yet to be vaccinated in this age group.
“While the advice from ATAGI requires us to adjust, it can be accommodated within the plans already in place,” Hunt said.
“While these amendments do not change the objective of offering every eligible Australian access to a vaccine in 2021, it will mean some patience is required for 50 to 59-year-olds seeking access to Pfizer first doses over the coming weeks.”
The Pfizer vaccines are expected to become more widely available from September and October when a shipment arrives.