Hello, my name is Dr Lucas de Toca and I lead the Department of Health’s Primary Care Response to COVID-19.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or ATAGI, has been looking at links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a clotting condition following the vaccination called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, or TTS.
This is a new but extremely rare condition.
Based on information here in Australia and overseas, the risk of TTS although rare, seems to be higher in people aged under 50 years of age. Because of this, ATAGI has advised that the Pfizer vaccine is preferred in adults under 50 years old who have not already had AstraZeneca.
People who have already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and have not had any significant side effect, will be able to receive their second dose– regardless of their age. The risk of TTS following a second dose appears to be much much lower than after the first dose.
For those aged 50 and over ATAGI advises that the AZ vaccine is still suitable because of the increased risk of more severe illness with COVID-19 and the seemingly lower risk of TTS.
People aged under 50 may still be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine where the benefit is likely to outweigh the risks. In these cases it will be important to ensure the people in your care are fully informed about this rare but serious side effect.
The vaccination rollout has been recalibrated to reflect the ATAGI advice and the Pfizer vaccine will now be provided to people under 50 years old and to aged care residents. People aged 50 and over will be able to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In addition, the rollout to 50 and over has been accelerated. People can use the COVID Vaccine Eligibility Checker on the Department of Health website, to check their eligibility and to find an appointment.
From the 3rd of May, the AstraZeneca vaccine will available to people aged 50 and over through Commonwealth vaccination clinics, State and Territory run clinics and some general practices.
From the 17th May, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be available to people aged 50 and over through all participating general practices.
People aged 50 and over who work in age or disability residential care can also seek a vaccination through these vaccination sites.
It is important that people, particularly in people aged 50 and over know that the AstraZeneca vaccine is very good at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. And the benefit through protection from COVID-19 far outweighs the very small risk of TTS.
There is updated information on the Department of Health website on Health.gov.au that you can review and use to have informed discussions on risk and benefits with your patients.
As health professionals we all know that vaccines save lives. And we know that no vaccine is without some form of risk or side effect.
The vaccination program continues to be a crucial way to protect our community from the serious effects of COVID-19, and to help us move on from the pandemic.
We appreciate your assistance in contributing to the ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines by informing the Therapeutic Good Administration or TGA of any side effects.
We thank you for your ongoing support throughout the rollout and throughout the entire COVOD-19 pandemic.