Australian state official urges against AstraZeneca

The top health official in Australia’s Queensland state is advising adults under age 40 not to take the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine because of the risk of a rare blood clotting disorder, even though the Australian government is making those shots available to all adults.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said Wednesday that younger adults should wait for the scarce Pfizer vaccine to become available. Young says that with only 42 coronavirus cases active in Queensland, AstraZeneca is not worth the risk for younger adults.

The federal government decided on Monday to make AstraZeneca available to all adults as concerns grow about clusters of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is thought to be more contagious.

Australian authorities still say Pfizer is the preferred option for people younger than 60.  Australians have a choice of only two vaccines and locally manufactured AstraZeneca is more plentiful.

“No, I do not want under the 40s to get AstraZeneca because they are at increased risk of getting — it is rare — but they’re at increased risk of getting that rare clotting syndrome,” Young said.

“I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die,” Young added.

Australia’s adviser on vaccines, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, known as ATAGI, recommends Pfizer for people under 60 because of the clotting risk.

AstraZeneca had been recommended for all adults until a 48-year-old Australian woman died from clotting in April.

The vaccine was then recommended for people older than 50 until a 52-year-old died in May.

As concerns grew about new infections, the federal government on Monday decided to make AstraZeneca available to all adults and to indemnify against lawsuits doctors who administer it.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said his government took a “different approach” to the federal government.

“Under 40s shouldn’t have it,” McGowan said, referring to AstraZeneca. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the ATAGI advice continued to be his government’s “guiding light.” But ATAGI advised that AstraZeneca could be administered to people under 60 “for whom Pfizer is not available.” Conditions included that benefits were likely to outweigh risks and that the decision to take AstraZeneca was informed.

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