Australia joined a growing number of countries on Thursday stopping use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for young people over fears it could cause serious blood clots.
In another setback for Australia’s already halted coronavirus vaccine rollout, officials said the AstraZeneca vaccine should no longer be given to people under the age of 50, unless they have already received a first dose without any ill effects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held an evening press conference to announce the decision shortly after the government’s medical advisory board decided to follow European countries and other countries in limiting the use of AstraZeneca.
“It’s not our practice to jump in the shadows, it’s not our practice to take unnecessary precautions,” he said, explaining the step.
“We have taken the necessary precautions based on the best possible medical advice.”
Australia has been one of the best performing countries in the world at containing the spread of Covid-19, with less than 30,000 cases and 1,000 deaths for a population of 25 million and virtually no ongoing community transmission .
But it has fallen far behind the government’s schedule to vaccinate people against the disease, with just one million doses given on Thursday, when it pledged to give four million doses last week.
Australia planned to use AstraZeneca to inoculate most of its population, first using doses imported from Europe and then using locally made vaccines.
But vaccine shortages in Europe have resulted in delays in AstraZeneca deliveries, while planned deliveries of alternative vaccines like Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax have yet to increase.
Several European countries have already suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger populations after its total ban in several places due to fear of blood clots.
The European medicines regulator said on Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of the vaccine, but the benefits of inoculation continue to outweigh the risks.
Australian officials have justified the age limit of 50 for administering the vaccine by saying that younger people are less likely to suffer from serious complications from Covid-19.
But they stressed that older Australians should continue to trust AstraZeneca’s shots.
“I would like to reiterate that we strongly encourage those 50 and over to adopt the AstraZeneca vaccine – it is a very effective vaccine in preventing severe Covid,” said Brendan Murphy, head of the government health department.
He added that the danger of blood clots associated with the vaccine was “extraordinarily low”.
So far, there has been only one case of blood clotting in a patient who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia.
Morrison and Murphy said they were confident there would be enough doses of Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax vaccines to complete the inoculation of Australian adults.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by The Bharat Express News staff and is posted Platforms.)