Australians are cancelling their appointments for second AstraZeneca vaccine dose; here is why

The government had placed the order for 40 million Pfizer vaccines and only half of it is expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.

Change in vaccination guidelines pertaining to AstraZeneca vaccine appears to have impacted the inoculation drive within the country. In the recent changes made by the Australian government, the recommended age has been changed to 60 years and above which led to many people backing out from their vaccination appointments. Many people have cancelled their appointments for a second dose of AstraZeneca vaccination, doctors have noted. The guidelines advised people below the age of 60 years to go for the approved alternative which is Pfizer vaccine.

Now this becomes problematic considering the already prevalent vaccine hesitancy among people in the country. Not only this, but this also creates a burden on supply of Pfizer vaccine which is currently short.

It is to note that AstraZeneca vaccine has come under the criticism for potential trigger of a rare blood clotting syndrome. The Australian government has asked the younger population to go for Pfizer vaccination only when it’s open for masses. For now, the health authorities in Australia have urged people to get their second jab of AstraZeneca vaccine if they have received the first dose without any serious side effects.

A report by The IE citing the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation said that younger groups are at a greater risk of contracting the blood clotting disorder which is also known as thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). This is being linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the Department of Health is still urging people who have already received one shot of the vaccine to go for the second.

Since the Pfizer vaccine will also open for people over 50 years of age, people in Australia are now cancelling their vaccination appointments in a hope to receive the other vaccine. According to the report, over 2.1 million people in the 50-59 age group have not received a single dose of either vaccine. Therefore, they are now eligible to get the Pfizer shot. To be sure, supplies of the Pfizer vaccine are limited with the government. The government had placed the order for 40 million Pfizer vaccines and only half of it is expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.

Apart from this, the government has said that it will increase the production of existing vaccines and will bring in other vaccines by Moderna and Novovax by the year-end.

To put in perspective, earlier this year, many countries suspended the use of Oxford- AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots surfaced. However, the vaccine cannot be scrapped completely by Australia, since it is the country’s primary vaccine and is also known for a high level of protection against death and hospitalisation due to Covid-19. Right now, experts believe the vaccine to be the country’s best shot given the rise of new waves and more mutated viral strains. Also, the risk of getting TTS from AstraZeneca is quite low- one in 2 million people.

As of now, Australia has been able to fully vaccinate 3 per cent of its adults whereas 25 per cent received their first dose. The vaccination programme which started in February this year is open to people above the age of 40 years.

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