State and federal health authorities are urging older people who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to bring forward their second dose after a woman in her 90s, believed to be unvaccinated, died with COVID-19.
Hers was the first death of the current outbreak which began on June 16 when a limousine driver from Sydney’s eastern suburbs became infected transporting foreign freight crew.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said people, particularly the elderly, who have had one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine should consider having their second after six weeks rather than wait the recommended 12 weeks.
“We might sacrifice a bit of long-term protection but we’re making sure you’re protected earlier and, at this time, that’s the strategy we’d suggest,” she said.
“Please ring your GP if you’ve got a booking into the future for AstraZeneca and ask if can be brought forward. We particularly want to focus on the elderly. We know the vaccines are very effective at preventing illness and death and we know the elderly are most vulnerable.”
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the advice only applied to people in Greater Sydney, and reaffirmed that the vaccine is licensed for people to receive a second dose between four and 12 weeks after the first.
Professor Kelly said clinical trials show 12 weeks is the optimal time to wait between doses for long-term protection. That remains the national advice but Sydney is a different case.
“In Sydney right now, we need to weigh up immediate protection versus longer term protection, so the immediate protection that would come from earlier dose would make sense,” he said.
“Earlier gives you less protection longer term but it gives you better protection now.
“If you are in Sydney – only in Sydney – have a discussion with your GP to potentially bring that forward but that is a one-on-one discussion about that risk and benefit about that.”