Australia

Scott Morrison says ‘there are no changes’ to vaccine rollout after death of NSW woman who received AstraZeneca jab

Australia will conduct a rolling review of every coronavirus vaccine in domestic use after the death of a NSW woman who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine developed blood clots and died.

The family of Genene Norris has expressed profound shock and sorrow over the 48-year-old’s death, which health authorities have said is likely linked to the vaccine.

“Her passing leaves a gaping void in our family. We cannot believe that this time last week she was with us and now she is gone,” Ms Norris’ family said in a statement on Saturday.

“Currently, we know as much as the public knows as further medical investigations need to take place.”

Scott Morrison said “there are no changes” to the nation’s vaccine rollout.

“Right now, the focus is on vaccinating frontline health workers, those in aged care and disability care, and vaccinating our vulnerable populations, particularly our elderly over 70,” he told reporters on Sunday morning.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and recommended for use for those aged over 50. There is no change to that. That is confirmed again by TGA advice that has come through.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday sought to reassure Australians about available vaccines, saying they were “overwhelmingly safe, effective and recommended”.

“To see global case numbers rise above 800,000 on some days and 700,000 on many days at the moment, reminds us we are in a safe and fortunate position,” Mr Hunt said.

But that cannot be presumed or guaranteed, and that’s why vaccination remains so important.”

He said the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) would be asked to continuously review the safety and efficacy of all COVID-19 vaccines.

Ms Norris had her shot just hours before authorities announced they were no longer recommending AstraZeneca for Australians under 50.

She is the third person in Australia to develop blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. The other two cases are recovering.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has said that while a “causative link” between Ms Norris’s death and her vaccination on 8 April “should be assumed”, questions remain.

It noted the complication of her underlying health conditions and said an antibody common in other AstraZeneca clotting cases wasn’t present.

Some test results are still pending. An autopsy is planned on Monday and a coronial inquest is likely.

The TGA has also confirmed it has received 13 reports of the AstraZeneca vaccine mistakenly being given to children aged 14-17.

Australia has not approved any COVID-19 vaccines for use in children.

The TGA said no serious consequences had resulted from errors such as health workers failing to confirm ages before administering vaccines.

Meanwhile, the NSW government is investigating a potential case of coronavirus transmission inside a quarantine hotel in Sydney.

Two family groups who arrived from different countries on different days have been confirmed to have the same viral sequence.

They stayed in neighbouring rooms on the same floor of the Adina Apartments Hotel at Sydney’s Town Hall and some of the cases might soon be reclassified as locally-acquired cases. Staff who worked on the floor are now in quarantine.

Mr Hunt reiterated on Saturday that the federal government was prioritising the medical advice and would continue to do so.

“That’s our pledge: To put the medical advice and safety above all else,” he said. “And that’s why we’ve asked ATAGI to put in place continuous review.”

TGA Deputy Secretary John Skerritt previously said blood clotting associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine was so rare that “your chances of winning the lotto are much higher”, with the regulator’s Friday statement saying the three cases in Australia so far equated to a frequency of one in 295,000.

Mr Morrison also said Australia is “in no hurry to open its borders”.

“Three million people have died from COVID. The COVID pandemic is raging around the world,” he said.

“I assure Australians that I will not be putting at risk the way we are living in this country which is so different to the rest of the world today.

“The issues of borders and how they are managed will be done very, very carefully, and must be done in partnership with the states and territories in terms of how the
quarantine program works, public health orders control what is done with quarantine of returning Australians and residents.”

With reporting by SBS News.

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