Tasmanian health authorities are working to contact the more than 1400 Tasmanians aged under 50 who have already received a dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, following updated advice relating to "extremely rare" links to blood clotting.
On Friday morning, Tasmanian State Health Commander Katherine Morgan-Wicks said authorities had worked through the night after new advice was issued late Thursday that people aged under 50 not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine unless the "benefit clearly outweighed the risk".
Instead, it was recommended they get the Pfizer vaccine.
Ms Morgan-Wicks said since March 9, more than 17,700 doses of AstraZeneca had been administered in Tasmania.
However, more than 90 per cent of these had gone to people aged over 50 years, with about 1424 Tasmanians aged between 18 and 50 estimated to have received an AstraZeneca vaccine.
Ms Morgan-Wicks said those in that cohort who had already received the first dose, without any adverse reactions, would be able to safely receive the second dose.
"The Department of Health is in the process of contacting everyone in this group to ensure they are aware of the latest ATAGI advice, noting that these adverse reactions are extremely rare events with a rate varying from four to six cases per million doses of vaccine given," she said.
"Additionally it is important to note that adverse reactions have only occurred within a small time period of the four to 20 days, and only after the first dose.
"Although the incidence of these reactions is very rare, it is very important to be aware of them and to seek medical advice."
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the latest advice late Thursday evening, with Chief medical officer Paul Kelly saying the AstraZeneca's link to blood clots was a very rare, but a serious concern.
Premier Peter Gutwein stressed that the health and safety of Tasmanians remained the government's number one priority, and while the side effect was rare, it was best to exercise caution.
"This vaccine will continue to play a very important role in Tasmania's vaccination rollout, just as it has done in other places around the world," he said.
"In making this change last night, Australia's chief medical officer outlined that of an estimate one million doses of the vaccine administered in Australia so far, of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer, there has been just one case of this rare blood clotting disorder."
Meanwhile, GPs have reported a spike in cancelled appointments amid growing concerns over vaccine hesitancy.
Launceston Health Hub director Dr Jerome Muir Wilson said while they had cancelled a number of existing appointments in response to the latest AstraZeneca advice, they also had patients outside of the cohort who had cancelled planned jabs.
"We have now cancelled a number of patients who are eligible who are under 50. But today [Friday] there has also been a number of people who have cancelled their appointments, who are over 50, because they are just uncertain," he said.
"So we've gone from not having enough vaccines, to having a lot more vaccines, and a lot less appointments. At the respiratory clinic we are aiming to do about 1200 vaccines a week, but this week, we've only been able to get bookings for about half of that."
The Launceston hub is among three GP-led respiratory clinics administering the AstraZeneca vaccine across the state. Despite the setback, Dr Muir Wilson said it was positive to see that the government was listening and acting on the advice of experts.
"It's important that safety has been put at number one and the science has been listened to straight away as it's come to hand," he said.
Following a national cabinet meeting on Friday, Mr Morrison confirmed Australia had secured an additional 20 million Pfizer vaccines, meaning a total of 40 million doses are now due to be shipped to Australia by the end of the year.
Mr Gutwein said the government was working through what the change in advice would mean for Tasmania's COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
He said anyone aged under 50 with existing first dose AstraZeneca appointments were being contacted to reschedule.
"As the Prime Minister said last night, there will be some re-calibration, but we will work our way through that over the coming days," he said.
It is estimated that the use of the Pfizer vaccine will be ramped up to accommodate the change. Some 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due in Australia by the end of the year.
Ms Morgan-Wicks said vaccine clinics remained open across the state on Friday and would continue to administer both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
GP-led clinics would also continue to administer AstraZeneca vaccines, but will now do so following the latest advice.
Those aged under 50 who have already received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine
Tasmania is now in its seventh week of its vaccination rollout.
To date, Tasmania has delivered 21,475 doses in state-run vaccine clinics. This includes 16,048 of the Pfizer vaccine and 5427 doses of AstraZeneca.
Up to April 7, the Commonwealth has delivered 5083 doses in residential aged and disability care and GP clinics have delivered 12,278 in Tasmania.
That is a total of 38,836 doses - or 5.3 per cent of the population receiving their first dose.
Tasmanians with concerns or questions around the vaccine are encouraged to call the Public Health hotline on 1800 671 738, or to contact their GP directly.
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