Australia recommends Pfizer over AstraZeneca for younger people

Australian authorities, in a surprise turn of events, came forward to recommend adults under 50 years of age in the country not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine after a rarely possible link between the jab and a rare blood clotting side effect was established.

Under Australia’s vaccine strategy, most Australians were expected to receive the AstraZeneca shot, as it was the only vaccine Australia managed to secure sufficient supply of, given CSL is producing it in Melbourne. CSL says it will continue to produce as per the original contracted arrangement.

In an unexpected press conference on Thursday night, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly announced the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had met over the recent finding of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and recommended the Pfizer shot be preferred for adults under 50 who have not already received their first AstraZeneca dose.

Now the advice is that adults under 50 only get the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in circumstances where the “benefit clearly outweighs the risk” for the individual, Professor Kelly said.

He said those who had already received their first AstraZeneca dose without serious adverse effects could safely get their second.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new advice would be provided to the medical community, and it was ultimately up to individual Australians and their doctors as to how they proceed.

“The advice here today is not to not have the AstraZeneca vaccine. There is not a prohibition on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for persons under 50 – there is an expression of a preference,” Mr Morrison said.

The development comes after the European findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine were made public, with women and people under 60 said to be at a higher risk of developing the rare clotting side effect.