As scarcity plagues Pfizer supply, QLD urges against AstraZeneca vaccines for under-40s

As scarcity plagues Pfizer supply, QLD urges against AstraZeneca vaccines for under-40s

"I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness, who if they got COVID probably wouldn't die," says Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Queensland health authorities forecast some of the state's vaccine centres could run out of Pfizer supplies in just eight days, after a call for Canberra to lift incoming weekly volumes was rebuffed.

The state's Health Minister Yvette D'Ath told a press conference this morning some sites, including the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, were at "critical" levels and on track to running out of Pfizer vaccines by as soon as the week of 5 July. 

She explained the state would be receiving 64,500 doses a week in July, although to meet demand a request had been made for an additional 152,100 doses which was denied by Lieutenant General John Frewen.

The minister has questioned whether a possible shortage might be the reason why Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on young Australians yesterday to get AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccinations despite the nation's leading medical authorities recommending it only be administered to people aged 60 and over.

"It can't simply be because we have a lot of stock of one vaccine and not enough of the other to start recommending that people get a particular vaccine. That advice should always be based on clinical advice," D'Ath said.

"I am disappointed that we have been denied any extra vaccines despite the reasons we've been given, despite the fact that we are going to start running out of vaccines, and I would welcome the Commonwealth telling us exactly how much vaccines they currently have on stock.

"We are getting to that point that we will have to start prioritising only second doses if the Commonwealth do not have any vaccines left."

Ever since the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Federal Government raised alarm bells in April around the potential effects of AstraZeneca in younger demographics, there has been a focus on "informed consent" for vaccination that has overlayed public health policy even as age recommendation limits rose.

Therefore nothing has actually changed regarding the possibility for young people to consult with their doctor and get the AZ jab if it's available - keeping in mind the extremely low probability of complications - but for the Australian Medical Association (AMA) the message came as a surprise. 

While the PM's comments came after a National Cabinet meeting in which a no-fault indemnity scheme was introduced for GPs and vaccine providers, on the request of the AMA, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk emphasised this did not equate to a decision on an AZ roll-out for younger people.

"There is some clear guidelines that have been put in place by the Chief Health Officer, ATAGI and the AMA, and there has been no National Cabinet decision about providing AstraZeneca to the under 40s," she said.

"The advice is for people aged 40 to 59 to get Pfizer and people 60 and over to get AstraZeneca."

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said an urgent meeting had been called by the Commonwealth today with chief health officers around the country to talk through the issue.

"I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness, who if they got COVID probably wouldn't die," she said.

"We've had very few deaths due to COVID 19 in Australia in people under the age of 50, and wouldn't it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland who dies related to this pandemic died because of the vaccine?"

Queensland's Deputy Premier Steven Miles doubled down on his calls to tighten restrictions on international arrivals, raising questions around Federally-granted permits for frequent travellers in and out of the country without vaccinations.

"The borders are not genuinely closed, and these travellers are displacing Australians who are genuinely stranded overseas, genuinely trying to get home," he said.

"In addition to the non-Australians returning every month, about 40,000 Australian citizens and about 6,000 permanent visa holders are allowed to leave the country. Many then seek to return, rejoining the queue, going back through hotel quarantine, putting our community at risk."

He noted genomic sequencing confirmed Queensland's Delta case - an unvaccinated 19-year-old woman who had worked as a casual employee at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane's north, and who was in the community while infectious for a week including on a family holiday to Magnetic Island - was linked to a returned traveller from Indonesia.

Minister Miles claimed that returned traveller had been given permits to travel back and forth to Indonesia during the pandemic, but had not been vaccinated.

"There are a large number of people that are traveling overseas for business for a whole range of reasons, and there are questions that need to be answered about why they are not vaccinated leaving," added Premier Palaszczuk.

"And also, if people are coming to Australia, why are they not getting their vaccinations? Because it is overseas arrivals that are bringing this delta virus into our state."

The Sunshine State reported three new COVID-19 cases today - one linked to the casual hospital worker, one who is a close contact of the Portuguese restaurant cluster, and one who is a close contact of the Virgin flight crew member.

Today's developments come as more than half of Australia's residents are currently in lockdown conditions, including snap lockdowns in Southeast Queensland, the region around Townsville, Darwin, Alice Springs, and Perth and Peel in WA, as well as a two-week lockdown in NSW for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

Updated at 12:21pm AEST on 30 June 2021.

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