Vaccine expert cuts through jab confusion

The co-chair of Australia’s official expert vaccine panel has cautioned people under 40 to only consider the AstraZeneca jab in pressing circumstances.

A bitter spat has broken out between politicians and health officials over the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

On Monday, Scott Morrison encouraged people under 40 keen for the AstraZeneca vaccine to talk to their GP.

More than 2600 Australians under 40 have received AstraZeneca since the prime minister’s comments.

But the mangled messaging has fuelled fear and confusion over who should get which vaccine.

Christopher Blyth, who co-chairs the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, said people under 60 should get the Pfizer jab.

Professor Blyth said people in that age group should only be considering AstraZeneca in “pressing” circumstances.

“There are some situations where that would be warranted, but they are quite small,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“The ATAGI advice is that Pfizer is our preference for those under the age of 60 years.”

Mr Morrison provided GPs legal protection to vaccinate all adults and offered patients Medicare cover for their consultations.

But several state premiers and their medical advisers have pushed back against his advice.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young was accused of scaremongering after declaring she didn’t want an 18-year-old to die from blood clots linked to AstraZeneca. The side effect is extremely rare.

Dr Young reaffirmed her advice for people under 40 to wait for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in a fiery news conference.

“This is getting absolutely silly,” she told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

The veteran doctor defended her 16 years’ involvement with Australia’s immunisation programs.

“I am on the record as supporting vaccination. But I want the right vaccine to go to the right person,” Dr Young said.

Medical professionals distanced themselves from Dr Young’s remarks about blood clots, which can be treatable.

Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy described her comments as concerning and inappropriate.

“As a doctor, my job is to offer an opinion and to offer treatments of medical benefit, it’s not to deliver things as an edict,” Dr Moy told the ABC.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners director Charlotte Hespe said Dr Young was scaremongering.

Infectious diseases expert Nick Coatsworth said the risk of younger people dying from coronavirus was higher than the clotting disorder.

“Nearly every medical leader distanced themselves from Dr Young’s comments,” he told the Seven Network.

“She’s unfortunately out on a very lonely limb there.”

Senior Morrison government minister Simon Birmingham went on the counterattack against Labor premiers, describing attempts to politicise the issue as “shameful”.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the federal-state spilt was causing confusion.

“Unfortunately, the prime minister’s thrown a little bit of a hand grenade into our vaccine program,” he told Sky News.

As well as shining a light on the beleaguered vaccine rollout, outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta strain have forced harsh restrictions across the country.

More than 12 million people are locked down across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and NSW.

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