AstraZeneca explained: Why it’s no longer ‘preferred’ for people under 50

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The AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer “preferred” for Australians under the age of 50, according to a recommendation from the country’s medical expert working group.

The decision comes as a link has been established between extremely rare cases of blood clots in AstraZeneca recipients, especially in Europe. Britain made a similar decision, choosing to use other vaccines on those under 30.

Here’s what we know so far.

What changed?

  • The Pfizer vaccine is now preferably used in Australian adults under the age of 50 who have not yet received their first injection of AstraZeneca.
  • Australians who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca without a blood clot can receive their second dose without complications.
  • Australians under the age of 50 can still choose to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, but individual cases will be assessed to ensure that the benefit outweighs the risk.
  • AstraZeneca is still safe for people over 50 years old.
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What is the risk rate between AstraZeneca and blood clots?

  • The occurrence of blood clots in young adults who receive the vaccine is estimated at between four and six cases per million – therefore extremely rare. For comparison, the risk of blood clots with the use of the oral contraceptive pill is four in 10,000
  • Clots developing from the vaccine carry a death rate of 25%. Nineteen people have died in Britain, out of 79 cases
  • Although it is more common in young adults (under 50) and women, the exact cause is not known
  • An Australian, a 44-year-old Melbourne, developed clots after receiving the vaccine. He was admitted to hospital 12 days after the shooting.
  • Symptoms (shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, stomach pain, headache, or blurred vision) can occur anywhere within 14 days of the injection.
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What does this mean for our deployment?

  • Our deployment plan will now be reassessed, casting serious doubt on the October 31 schedule for one dose per Australian.
  • Phase 1b is likely to be delayed – it includes young adults with a health problem and frontline health workers
  • Pfizer vaccines will now be redefined for Australians under 50 after phase 1a is completed
  • Australia has 20 million doses of Pfizer on order arriving from overseas – around 870,000 have arrived. The government ordered 3.8 million doses of AstraZeneca and 700,000 arrived from overseas. To date, the local CSL outlet has distributed approximately 1.3 million AstraZeneca vaccines.
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-with AAP

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