Health experts have launched a renewed push to assure Australians coronavirus vaccines are safe after a cautious lift in the age recommendation for AstraZeneca.
The federal government's vaccine rollout will now offer people under 60 Pfizer after new advice from the expert panel on immunisation. More than 840,000 people under 60 who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca are being encouraged not to cancel second-jab appointments.
That's because the extremely rare blood clotting condition, which has led to two deaths from 3.8 million doses, almost always only occurs after the first injection. Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly urged people to get a second jab, which significantly boosts protection from serious illness.
"It is really important to get that full protection and get two doses," he told the ABC on Friday. Health Minister Greg Hunt said expert medical advice was for people to receive a second dose.
"Second doses are absolutely critical and they are fundamentally safe," he told the Nine Network. "Second doses around the world have an incredibly low rate of incidents associated with them."
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said doctors had developed effective treatments meaning most people who developed the rare clots recovered fully. "People who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be alarmed by this decision," he said.
"The risks of serious complications, including clotting, from the AstraZeneca vaccine are very low and Australia is now very good at detecting clots in patients who've had the AstraZeneca vaccine." Labor has seized on the rollout's latest setback to reignite its argument the government relied too heavily on AstraZeneca.
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said the latest Victorian lockdown and an emerging Sydney outbreak showed the importance of ramping up jab rates. "We are going to be living in the land of the lockdown until we get vaccinated," he told Nine.
"That is on the federal government to make sure that happens." Pfizer supplies from overseas have become even more crucial with 2.1 million unvaccinated people aged 50 to 59 now needing the vaccine.
The health minister has spoken to the pharmaceutical giant's Australian head to ensure deliveries remain on track. During July, 2.8 million doses are due to arrive taking the average weekly delivery to 600,000. "It still means that people in these age groups from 40 to 59, we'd gently ask for their patience," Mr Hunt said.
NSW and ACT health authorities are on high alert as more exposure sites in Sydney and Canberra are linked to a coronavirus cluster of three. Melburnians and regional Victorians are enjoying greater freedoms after the government lifted more restrictions following the latest lockdown.
Matt Coughlan - AAP