Federal health minister Greg Hunt has insisted GPs have not been put off participating in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine program because of the AstraZeneca advice.
And for any doctors who may be concerned about being sued if it was administered to a younger person, he says vaccine indemnity agreements are already in place.
The rollout was thrown into disarray last week after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to Australians over 50 when concerns over blood clotting were raised.
Mr Hunt said GPs have “flocked” to participate in the vaccine program in the coming week.
But there are also reports that doctors are concerned that if they give an AstraZeneca jab to a younger person they could be sued if there are resulting problems.
Mr Hunt said while Pfizer is preferred for those under 50, AstraZeneca is available, subject to the medical discussion between a doctor and their patient
“On indemnity, I want to make something very, very clear,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“Australia already has vaccine indemnity agreements in place. I am saying this on behalf of the government but also on behalf of our legal advice, no doctor need worry.”
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshild said it is critical for Australia’s future that public confidence in the vaccine program is maintained.
“Your GP will give you the best advice about any medicine or vaccine,” he said.
“They will offer you what they believe to be of medical benefit to you and explain any risks and benefits of having or not having the treatment. “
It comes as the federal government says there has been no change to its vaccine program rollout timetable, contradicting one of its senior ministers.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program the government’s aim is to have all Australians injected with at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of the year, after it had been left up in the air last week.
“That is definitely the aim, that is the goal we have set trying to have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year,” Mr Tehan said.
But just hours later, a government spokesperson told AAP there had been no change in the government’s position from last week.
“We await further advice from the medical experts about potential timeframes, but our goal is to ensure every Australian is vaccinated as early as possible,” the spokesperson said.
Labor slams lack of vaccine deals
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said the government should have secured more vaccine deals to ensure there was a backup plan when something like the AstraZeneca situation arose.
“We are now in a very difficult situation,” Mr Butler told ABC’s Insider program.
“Australia was already way behind schedule in the vaccine rollout, not in the top-100 nations in the world and a bad situation has been made far worse by these unforeseen events around the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
But Mr Hunt said the government had followed the advice of health experts.
“There is no existing advice they have which has not been followed,” he said.
Mr Tehan will embark on a “vaccine diplomacy” trip to Europe from Wednesday.
He will speak with the European Union and his ministerial counterparts in France, Germany and Brussels.
“I will also be meeting the director general of the World Trade Organisation to talk about what we can do to ensure supply of the vaccine, not only for Australia, but globally,” Mr Tehan said.
There were no new COVID-19 community transmission cases reported on Sunday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there was one case believed to be an historic link to the recent Byron Bay cluster and was under investigation, adding it was not a risk to the community.