Australia offers AstraZeneca to all adults with the aim of rapidly increasing low vaccination rates, as on Tuesday more countries in the country were blocked against the spread of COVID-19.
The government agreed on Monday afternoon to compensate doctors administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been blamed for at least two fatalities for a rare complication of blood clotting in Australia since April.
This exceeds the only death from COVID-19 in Australia this year and hesitation has increased by just 5% of the fully inoculated population.
Pfizer has been the recommended vaccine for people under 60 since a 52-year-old woman died in May of blood clots in the brain blamed on AstraZeneca.
But Pfizer’s supply, the only Australian-made alternative to AstraZeneca, can’t keep up with demand.
“There’s a preference for Pfizer up to the age of 60. That’s a preference,” medical director Paul Kelly said Tuesday.
“It’s a discussion for doctors to have with their own patients and work through their own risk and benefit in relation to that,” Kelly added.
The state capital of Queensland, Brisbane, and surrounding cities will be closed for three days from the end of Tuesday after the government reported two new COVID-19 infections.
Sydney reported 19 new infections in this East Coast city, Perth reported two new cases in the West coast and Darwin reported two new cases on the north coast. These three cities and their environs are already closed.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, recording less than 31,000 cases and 910 deaths in a population of 26 million people. But new clusters of a variant that is believed to be more contagious have highlighted the country’s vulnerability through a slow deployment of vaccines.
AstraZeneca was supposed to be the cornerstone of vaccine deployment in Australia, free from the uncertainties of international supply chains. It was recommended to all adults until a 48-year-old woman died of blood clots in April four days after her first punch. AstraZeneca was said to be a safe choice for adults over the age of 50 until the 52-year-old died.
Some epidemiologists argue that the government should speed up the launch by reducing the gap between AstraZeneca bites from 12 to eight weeks. But some Australians are now refusing to take a second shot due to evolving perceptions of the risk of blood clotting.
The New South Wales state government highlights the apparent successes of vaccines in the current Sydney cluster.
Twenty-four people who attended a birthday party on June 19 became infected with the delta variant. None had been vaccinated. But six fully vaccinated health workers and an elderly care worker who had received the first of the doses attended the house party and were not infected.
“The first and strong indications of this party … are, if vaccinated, it is much more likely that it will not become infected with COVID-19,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Monday.
State Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said he was the only one of four government colleagues who dined together at a Sydney pizzeria on June 21 to become infected. An infected person had been to the restaurant before.
Marshall revealed that he was the only one of the four who had not had a dose of vaccine because, at 36, he was not eligible.
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