Australia has 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine on pre-order, which it hopes to receive in the second half of 2021 pending regulatory approvals.
“I do really want to stress that for people in those priority groups right now, people in aged care residences, people over the age of 70 or 80, AstraZeneca is perfectly safe,” the Chief Medical Officer said.
Meanwhile, he told Nine’s Today show on Friday the vaccination of young people in the aged care workforce, young healthcare workers and younger people with disabilities now present a “challenge”.
“We need to work out where we go with that in terms of which vaccine to offer,” he said. “But we do have the Pfizer vaccine as an alternative.”
With the changes announced on Thursday night, national cabinet will need to look at the rollout schedule and process “so that people have availability of the right vaccine for them at the right time”, Professor Kelly said.
Mr Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Professor Kelly and Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy held a press conference at 7.15pm on Thursday to announce changes to advice surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine, making the Pfizer vaccine the preference for adults aged less than 50 years who have not already received a first dose.
The announcement was within 15 minutes of the Australian Technical Advisory Group for Immunisation providing recommendations to the federal government, following a number of rare but serious blood clot cases overseas, Professor Kelly said.
On Thursday night, Mr Morrison said that on Friday and over the weekend there would be a “recalibration of how the program will need to be adjusted”.
In a statement, AstraZeneca said it respected the decision.
“Regulators around the world, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), have reviewed the rare clotting events and did not identify any risk factors, such as age or gender, or a definite cause for these extremely rare events,” it said.
“However, they came to the view that these events have a possible link to the vaccine and requested they be listed as an extremely rare potential side effect.”
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Sarah McPhee is a breaking news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.