Australia’s mixed messages on Covid vaccines sow confusion

The introduction of vaccines in Australia has been slow and chaotic, with leaders and health advisers sending mixed messages.

The country’s top medical association recommends that people follow guidelines from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization when deciding which Covid vaccine to take. ATAGI advises the Minister of Health in Australia on vaccination issues.

“We recommend following expert advice, but at the end of the day people can make their own decisions as these are all safe and effective vaccines,” said Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, on CNBC’s “Squawk” on Thursday Box Asia. “

While Australia has been comparatively successful in controlling infection, it has faced some constraints on vaccine supplies. Currently, only the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca syringes are approved for use, and both require two doses for complete immunization.

Mixed news from the Australian government and ATAGI has created confusion – and hesitation – about the vaccines available and their safety.

What do experts say?

ATAGI says people between the ages of 16 and 59 should preferably get Pfizer shots, while the government says those people can choose AstraZeneca after consulting their doctors.

Pfizer shots are scarce in the country and reports say the majority of the cans might not arrive until the third quarter.

The recommendation of the advisory group came afterwards Data showed higher risks and observed severity of an extremely rare bleeding disorder – known as thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome – associated with the use of AstraZeneca vaccines observed in Australian adults aged 50 and over.

June 2021, people are standing in front of a vaccination center in Sydney, as residents have largely been banned from leaving the city in order to stop a growing outbreak of the highly contagious Delta-Covid-19 variant in other regions.

SAEED KHAN | AFP | Getty Images

For those 60 years old and older, the group said the benefits of taking the AstraZeneca dose outweighed the risks of blood clots forming.

What is the government saying?

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said people under the age of 60 can get the AstraZeneca vaccine if they wish, provided they have discussed it with their doctors. The country will introduce a new “no mistake compensation system” for general practitioners who administer Covid-19 vaccines, he added.

“The ATAGI Council speaks of a preference for AstraZeneca to be available and made available as preferred for people over 60. But the council is not ruling out the possibility of people under the age of 60 receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, ”said Morrison, according to an official transcript from his press conference.

“So if you want to get the AstraZeneca vaccine we would encourage you to … go and have this conversation with your GP,” he said.

Vaccine progress

Khorshid of the Australian Medical Association said the vaccine rollout is progressing relatively well, despite the mixed messages and political tactics. He said about two-thirds of Australia’s most vulnerable population have already received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and are expected to receive their second dose.

Still, statistics compiled by Our World in Data showed just over 23% of the population to have at least one dose of the vaccine, and only about 6% were fully vaccinated.

An aerial view of Sixty Martin Place, Sydney, Australia.

Mark Syke | View pictures | Universal picture group | Getty Images

Authorities are also making efforts to contain outbreaks in Australia as the country seeks to contain the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus delta variant, which was first discovered in India.

According to reports, seven cities with around 12 million people are now on lockdown, including Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Khorshid told CNBC that the medical association wants the national cabinet to be strengthened on broader issues such as agreements on border closings and hotel quarantine regulations.

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