Health Minister, Greg Hunt, and his team deserve congratulations for the alacrity with which they have been able to obtain a further 20 million Pfizer Biontech doses for Australians. That brings the company's commitment to Australia to 40 million doses before the end of the year, enough to inoculate 20 million people. The additional Pfizer doses are expected to start arriving around October.
The news confirmed statements by many experts, including Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Covax co-chair, Jane Halton, that the decision to withhold the AstraZeneca vaccine from under-50s was a "hiccup and not a catastrophe".
The former Finance Department head was speaking in the wake of an after hours press conference during which a visibly shaken Prime Minister broke the news the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation had recommended because of a very low level risk of blood clotting an advisory be provided for administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine for persons under the age of 50.
The Chief Medical Officer Professor, Paul Kelly, said about four to six clotting events appeared to be occurring with every million doses of AstraZeneca administered.
While Pfizer is not without issues of its own given 11.1 people per million have reportedly suffered an anaphylactic reaction, it is considered safer for the younger cohort in which the risk of clotting is highest.
Australia's decision to go with 50 as the minimum age for AstraZeneca is yet another example of the abundance of caution local health authorities have brought to the vaccination roll-out. In the UK, where the virus is actively spreading in the community, the minimum age is only 30.
While this latest development, in conjunction with well-documented vaccine shortages and delivery and local production delays, has trashed the original timelines, that does not mean the vaccination roll-out is in danger of failing.
Australia remains a good place to be. Life here, even with these setbacks, is far closer to "normal" than what the vast majority of the global population is experiencing.
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