Vaccine questions confronted

Minister and health officials talk up Australia’s vaccine program as first clotting case emerges and questions over speed continue

Health Minister Greg Hunt and leading medical officials have moved to reassure Australians about the safety and efficacy of our COVID-19 vaccine program in a series of statements issued over the Easter long weekend.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced on 2 April that the first case of a clotting disorder following vaccination had been reported in Australia and was under investigation.   

“A small number of people, predominantly overseas (in the United Kingdom and Europe) have presented with clotting disorders following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” the TGA said.

“One case has been reported in Australia today and is being investigated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Medical experts within the European Medicines Agency and the UK Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have not confirmed a causal link with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine but continue to look in great detail at the available data and clinical circumstances around these reports”.

In a statement released over the recent Easter weekend, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, and the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt moved to reassure Australians about the program.

“Australia’s vaccine safety and regulatory process is world class and people can be confident that vaccines approved for use are safe and effective,” they said.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the National Vaccine Safety Investigation Group (VSIG), were “monitoring the situation closely” in conjunction with the TGA, the statement said.

ATAGI has released a statement to support health professionals in responding to any instances of clotting disorders following vaccine administration. This provides more information on clinical management and raises awareness of the potential for this condition.

Health Minister Greg Hunt also acknowledged the clotting report in a doorstop interview over the long weekend. 

“The ATAGI advice has been very clear, and I’ll just read it: ATAGI has not changed its advice on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine at this time. ATAGI and the TGA are currently investigating this particular case and working with international experts and regulators to provide advice on the optimal use of the AstraZeneca vaccine”.

Mr Hunt also addressed questions about the speed of the rollout saying “with over 111,000 of our seniors in residential aged care, we’re making enormous progress on that. So that progress is, I think, very, very heartening.

That has accelerated as the vaccine supplies have come on board. So our targets are very simple. We want to see all Australians who wish to be vaccinated given a first dose by the end of October.

We had three initial targets, which was to commence the Pfizer 1A in late February, which we were able to do to; to commence the AstraZeneca 1A in early March, which we were able to do; and finally, we were able to commence on the 22 March in late March, the 1B program”.

“In terms of the target, second doses by nature are three weeks after the Pfizer doses. The first dose, the second dose is given, and 12 weeks after the AstraZeneca dose,” Mr Hunt said.

“As to the rate, in October and September of completing the programme, that will depend simply on the supply. The supply at this stage is looking strong. We are in a very fortunate position given the global circumstances with our CSL production, but that’s a simple medical fact. And those elements were well determined”.


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