Date published: 
9 April 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Dr Brendan Murphy is the Department of Health Secretary and wants to talk to you this morning about what's happening with AstraZeneca. Dr Murphy, good morning.

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Good morning, Spencer.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Obviously, the headline is that AstraZeneca is off the table really for anyone under 50, or at least the recommendation is to find an alternative. Can you just take us through that? Explain it for us.

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Yes. So, what's happened is, over recent weeks there has emerged, particularly in Europe and the UK, evidence that there is probably a real but extraordinarily rare complication of this vaccine, where some days - more than four days after the vaccine, people seem to get an unusual immune reaction which causes some blood clots. We've seen only one case- possible case in Australia, but the international evidence suggests that this is, you know, a very, very rare condition. But it does seem to occur more commonly in younger people, and younger people are those that aren't really at risk of getting severe COVID in most cases.

So, our expert advisory committee that advises Government have decided that, on the basis of this evidence, that it's preferred to use a non-adenovirus, or the non-AstraZeneca virus vaccine for younger people. And that means we will have to re-calibrate our programme and continue to strongly support AstraZeneca vaccine for the older people who are much higher risk of COVID, and for whom it's an incredibly effective vaccine.

I've had the AstraZeneca vaccine and I will have my second dose, and anyone over 50 is really strongly encouraged to get it first. It's a really, really good vaccine, and this is a very rare side effect. We do see rare side effects with other vaccines, but because we do have another vaccine and potentially others coming, that this decision was made on an abundance of caution only.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Brendan Murphy does an email here from Annie, and a few people are saying this this morning, chances of clots in women on the pill, one in two and a half thousand; after a long-haul flight, one in 6000; and these can be fatal. People under 50 are not due to be vaccinated for months anyway. The media is whipping up panic and it will dent confidence in the vaccine. Your thoughts on that?

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Yes, I think we are, we are concerned about panic and we do want to make sure that people are incredibly confident in this vaccine. And I- look, I agree with Annie, that it is an incredibly rare incidence of clots compared to lots of other situations. But we- in our situation in Australia we don't currently have active COVID, and younger people aren't at serious risk of COVID. And we have an alternative vaccine to give them.

So, on that basis, on the balance of probabilities and an abundance of caution, this decision's been made. But I agree. You know, an alternative decision would have been to say, well, the risk of COVID is much greater, we should continue as we are. But we've taken the expert of medical advice, which governments across the country have done all the way through the pandemic.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Well, that's the thing. We didn't rush in, we've taken this all very slowly and I guess this is another example of that. You use the word recalibrate, Dr Murphy. We'll need to recalibrate the roll out. I read that to mean it's going to now be elongated, it'll, it'll delay people getting the vaccine. Is that right?

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Well, I think we expect to protect all the vulnerable people in phase one by the middle of the year, and that has been our major goal. And that is not in any way in question, because most of those people will be getting AstraZeneca. And we're pushing ahead; it's going really well. We had a million doses yesterday.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

But it's the October target is the one that's at question right now.

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Well, I think- Well, we have to look now at what are our- we have a diversified vaccine purchase supply line. We've got 51 million Novavax coming in the second half of the year; we're working with Pfizer to try and increase the rate of their supply of those we've contracted with them.

So, we're doing a lot of work to look at, you know, which groups will get which vaccine and whether that will impact on the programme roll out. And we're not really in a position to give clear estimates at the moment, but clearly we want to get the population, adult population vaccinated as quickly as possible.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Thanks for coming on this morning.

BRENDAN MURPHY:                    

Great pleasure. Thanks. Bye.

SPENCER HOWSON:                     

Dr Brendan Murphy is the Department of Health Secretary.

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