Vic vaccine boss expects high demand

Victorians are likely to have “significant demand” for the AstraZeneca jab despite ongoing concerns about its side effects, according to the state’s vaccination boss.

Professor Ben Cowie said he is confident the state will cope with coronavirus vaccine demand, despite the ongoing shortage of Pfizer shots.

The state’s vaccination program for eligible people under 50 will resume on Wednesday, after it was paused because of potential blood clotting from the AstraZeneca shot.

Three mass vaccination sites offering AstraZeneca will also open on Wednesday at the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Geelong’s former Ford factory.

Victorians aged over 70 can go to the new centres and receive their shots without an appointment.

“While it is a serious issue, the clotting issue associated with AstraZeneca – particularly in people aged under 50 years – it’s incredibly rare,” Prof Cowie told ABC Radio.

“My ideal would be we have a slow and steady, safe buildup.

“But I think there will significant demand out there.”

Pfizer vaccines remain prioritised for healthcare workers and Prof Cowie said anyone who has concerns about AstraZeneca should discuss it with their GP.

“The dose supply is an ongoing area of focus for us and clearly we can’t vaccinate anyone who we don’t have doses of vaccine to use,” he said.

“However we do have enough vaccine.

“There are certainly more people who need vaccine than we have doses of Pfizer available for.”

He added Victoria currently has around 14,000 Pfizer doses per week and this should ramp up by about 10,000 per week in four weeks’ time.

“It’s clear that we prioritising phase 1a and then into phase 1b,” he said.

“We have responsibility to ensure that our health care workforce is protected and those aged under 50, we need to be offering them Pfizer.”

The Pfizer jabs are being given in hospital immunisation hubs.

Prof Cowie said an effort was also being made to ensure health workers who received their first Pfizer jab were able to have their second shot, after concerns that some people might miss out.

“We’re not going to leave someone half-immunised, that would be insane,” he said.

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