Australia

Australia’s AstraZeneca vaccine rollout to continue amid rare Melbourne blood clot case

A Melbourne man’s rare blood clotting disorder, likely linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, will not affect its rollout to Australians.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration and Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation met on Saturday morning and Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said no changes to the AstraZeneca rollout were recommended.

He said it was likely, given similarities with rare overseas cases, that the man’s clotting was related to him receiving the jab.

However, Professor Kidd again emphasised that the risk of serious disease and death from COVID-19 among the mostly unvaccinated Australian population was “far greater”.

The expert advice is the result of investigations into the illness of the man in his 40s who was admitted to Melbourne’s Box Hill hospital after receiving the AstraZeneca jab on 22 March.

“While at this time, we don’t have evidence of causality, the clinical features of this case are consistent with what we have seen in international reports of similar cases,” Prof Kidd said.

“And it is likely that the case reported yesterday is related to the vaccine. This would be consistent with international experience.”

The review did not found any evidence of improper storage or administration of the vaccine, he said.

Overseas, British regulators say they have identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events after the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, 25 more than the agency previously reported.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had received no such reports of clotting events following use of the vaccine made by BioNTech and Pfizer.

On Friday, the medicine regulator told the Financial Times that seven recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine have died after registering the rare blood clotting events.

The MHRA, European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation have all reiterated that benefits of the vaccine in the prevention of COVID-19 far outweigh any possible risk of blood clots.

On Australia’s overall COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s agreement to let NSW help get it done prompted Prof Kidd to say he would like to see other states and territories “get involved”.

The NSW offer is seen by Labor as proof of multiple failures by the federal government to get the vaccine to Australians as planned.

“For the umpteenth time in this pandemic, he’s going to have to be bailed out by state governments,” federal opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said.

“Every single promise the prime minister has made – four million [people vaccinated] by the end of March, finishing aged care within six weeks – they’ve not only missed those commitments, they haven’t even come close.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW would help administer phases one and two of the federally managed vaccination scheme in the state.

“I am pleased the prime minister in a letter … welcomed our offer,” she confirmed on Saturday.

The sluggishness of the vaccine rollout has in part been blamed for Greater Brisbane’s recent three-day lockdown.

Four million Australians were due to have jabs by the end of March, a target missed by more than 3.3 million.

The government had aimed for all Australians who want a vaccine to get one by the end of October, a goal critics say is out of reach.

Queensland on Saturday reported one new locally transmitted case – a man in quarantine for the entirety of his infection – while NSW reported none.

South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria have relaxed restrictions on travellers from Queensland, allowing quarantining people from Greater Brisbane to end their isolation if they have had a negative test result.

This excludes primary close contacts or those linked to exposure sites.

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