Vaccine expert cuts through jab confusion

The man responsible for providing official expert advice on vaccines has sought to clear up confusion around who should receive the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs.

A bitter spat has broken out between politicians and health officials over the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

The mangled messaging has fuelled fear and confusion over who should get what vaccine.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said people under 40 could talk to their GP about getting the AstraZeneca jab.

Mr Morrison offered GPs legal protection to vaccinate all adults and provided patients Medicare cover for their consultations.

But several state premiers and their medical advisers have pushed back against his advice.

Christopher Blyth, who co-chairs the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, said people under 60 should get the Pfizer vaccine.

Professor Blyth said people in that age group should only be considering AstraZeneca in “pressing” circumstances.

“There are some situations where that would be warranted, but they are quite small,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“The ATAGI advice is that Pfizer is our preference for those under the age of 60 years.”

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young does not want people under 40 to receive the AstraZeneca jab.

“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID probably wouldn’t die,” Dr Young said on Wednesday.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the health department had received confirmation of a change in Commonwealth policy to expand the vaccine rollout.

“The last thing we need is confusion around vaccines. What we need is certainty and consistency and confidence in the vaccination program,” he said.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan also wants people in his state to follow ATAGI’s medical advice.

“That is the advice we have and that is the national advice from the immunisation experts,” he said.

“Clearly, the Commonwealth has taken a different approach.”

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the federal-state spilt was causing confusion.

“Unfortunately, the prime minister’s thrown a little bit of a hand grenade into our vaccine program,” he told Sky News.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt continues to argue there is no disagreement on the medical advice, despite states discouraging under-40s from taking AstraZeneca.

As well as shining a light on the bungled vaccine rollout, outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta strain have forced lockdowns and restrictions across the country.

South Australia has avoided going into immediate lockdown but reinstated restrictions after recording five local cases linked to a returned mine worker.

But the Northern Territory extended its lockdown to Alice Springs, after shutting down Darwin, because the man and his four family members spent seven hours at the local airport before returning to Adelaide.

NSW recorded 22 new local coronavirus cases with Sydney and major regional centres remaining in lockdown.

There were three new cases in Queensland, which has locked down the southeast of the state, Townsville and two nearby islands.

WA recorded one new infection on the first day of a four-day lockdown for the Perth and Peel regions.


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