Advice surrounding the administration of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has changed over the weekend, with all adults in Sydney now asked to "strongly consider" getting the jab as cases continue to rise in the New South Wales capital.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement on Saturday regarding the immunisation of all adults in Sydney, slightly changing its advice.
The advisory group's new advice is that all adults aged 18 years and older in greater Sydney should "strongly consider" getting vaccinated with any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca.
"This is on the basis of the increasing risk of COVID-19 and ongoing constraints of Comirnaty (Pfizer) supplies," ATAGI said.
"In addition, people in areas where outbreaks are occurring can receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose, rather than the usual 12 weeks, to bring forward optimal protection."
The advice is a departure from ATAGI's previous communication that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not recommended for those aged under 60 because of a blood clotting risk for younger Australians.
However, due to the size of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, ATAGI said the benefits of receiving the AstraZeneca jab were greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.
"In the context of the current risk of COVID-19 in NSW and with the ongoing constraints on Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine supplies, all adults in greater Sydney should strongly consider the benefits of earlier protection with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca rather than waiting for alternative vaccines," ATAGI said.
"Maximal protection requires two doses of vaccine, but even a single dose of either vaccine provides substantial protection (by more than 70 per cent) against hospitalisation.
"A single dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca partially reduces transmission by around half and therefore may also benefit close contacts and the community."
The updated advice preceded a Federal Government announcement on Sunday that an additional 85 million doses of the Pfizer jab had been secured - 60 million of which will come this year and 25 million in 2023.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new supply schedule would provide every Australian with a booster vaccine if required.
"We have secured an additional 85 million doses of Pfizer, which brings Australia's total Pfizer doses to 125 million," the Prime Minister said.
"This is a significant shot in the arm for Australia's vaccine supply. Every Australian will have access to a booster shot if it is needed.
"This will ensure individuals, families and communities have certainty about their continued protection against the evolving threat of COVID-19 over the next two years. We have turned the corner in Australia's vaccine programme, and this is another milestone on our pathway back to a normal life."
COVID cases rise nationally
The updates come amid a weekend during which three Australian states were in lockdown and hundreds of fines were issued and dozens charged following anti-lockdown protests in Sydney.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was "utterly disgusted" by the protests.
"It just broke my heart that people had such a disregard for their fellow citizens," the Premier said.
As the protests were happening on Saturday NSW recorded 163 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, and then 141 on Sunday.
Interstate, South Australia and Victoria also recorded new locally acquired cases ahead of planned easing of lockdown restrictions.
SA's situation is looking positive ahead of the end of its seven-day lockdown, set to finish on Tuesday, recording one new locally acquired case on Saturday and two on Sunday - all of which were in isolation while infectious.
Victoria recorded 12 new cases on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. All of Sunday's cases were in isolation while infectious.
Meanwhile Queensland authorities are scrambling to identify new exposure sites in the state after a man from Sydney ignored quarantine orders and travelled to the state, spending days in the community.
As such, several contact tracing locations in Chermside and Nundah were issued on Sunday afternoon, including multiple times and dates for Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Parkwood on the Gold Coast from 13 to 23 July.
The full list of new Queensland exposure sites can be found here.
Updated at 10.15am AEST on 26 July 2021.
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