Australians aged under 60 are now being advised to receive the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 rather than AstraZeneca following changes to advice from the country's immunisation body.
The Australian Government is now recommending a minimum age of 60 to get the AstraZeneca shot, and to adapt to the new settings will be making Pfizer available to the 50-59 age bracket.
The latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is in response to analysis of case rates and demographics for a rare blood clot condition that to date has led to the deaths of two people out of more than three million people who were given the jab.
"This remains a very rare but sometimes serious event. We're picking it up much more commonly than other countries because we're looking more fully," says Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly.
"We've got good diagnostic algorithms and very good treatment, modalities and understanding in the clinical community about the correct treatment, which has been given properly.
"Our results really reflect that, so we've got 55 per cent of those 60 cases now have left hospital already - some remain in hospital and some are in ICU. We've had, unfortunately and very tragically, two deaths in that group."
However, Dr Kelly noted most people with the condition had been diagnosed early, and a large proportion have had a less severe form of the severe syndrome.
Secretary of the Department of Health Professor Brendan Murphy said he hoped the changes would mean more Australians will come forward to receive the jab.
"There are a number of people in the 50 to 59 year old age group who have been very hesitant and were probably not going to turn up for AstraZeneca, no matter how much we reassured them," Murphy said.
"This now gives some of those 2.1 million people an opportunity to get vaccinated earlier."
Updated at 1:40pm AEST on 17 June 2021.
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