A vial of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is seen at a vaccination centre (File Photo). Photograph:( Reuters )
With inoculations now the responsibility of Australian states, this move is likely to have a marginal impact at best
In a fresh blow to Australia's already inadequate vaccine rollout, the country has recommended that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine should not be given to people under 60.
The reason behind this decision is concerns over possible links between the vaccine and blood clots. According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, this means that Pfizer is now "the preferred vaccine" for everyone under 60 years old.
Back in April, Australian authorities had already restricted the AstraZeneca shot to those over 50 after several cases of severe blood clots were possibly linked to it. This fresh restriction comes following the death of a 52-year-old woman, who died of blood clotting after receiving the jab.
Hunt admitted the move would "challenge" the country's already badly stalled vaccine rollout, which has seen just three per cent of its population of 25 million fully inoculated so far.
On Thursday, the conservative government also announced that a senior army officer, Lieutenant General John Frewen, would be spearheading the federal vaccine rollout operation “Vaccine Shield”. This comes amid facing growing public disquiet over the slow rate of jabs.
With inoculations now the responsibility of Australian states, this move is likely to have a marginal impact at best.
Australia has made heavy investments in the AstraZeneca vaccine, even developing a facility to produce 50 million doses locally.
In comparison, purchases of other shots have been more limited and have faced multiple delays, something that has forced the government to abandon its target of vaccinating all adults by September this year.
Australia has witnessed only a few locally transmitted COVID-19 cases.
The country had previously closed its borders to all but a handful of foreign travellers, and these measures are expected to stay in place until a large percentage of Australia’s adults are vaccinated.
The virus, in the meantime, has repeatedly jumped from hotel quarantine facilities into the community, sparking lockdowns and costly restrictions.
One of the most populous cities of Australia Melbourne has exited its fourth lockdown just last week and Sydney is now on high alert after a cluster of three cases emerged linked to a foreign aircrew shuttle driver.
Several venues around the famed Bondi beach have been labelled potential virus hotspots, with anyone visiting told to get tested and stay at home for two weeks.