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Experts move to explain vaccine confusion

A bitter spat has broken out between politicians and health officials over the vaccine rollout. Photo: Nataliya Vaitkevich.

Australians have been urged to take coronavirus vaccine advice from doctors rather than bickering politicians.

A messy week of mangled messaging sparked confusion over which vaccine is most suitable for people based on their age.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday encouraged people under 40 keen for the AstraZeneca vaccine to talk to their GP.

The government also offered legal protection to doctors who prescribe the vaccine to consenting younger people.

But the expert immunisation panel, ATAGI, remains resolute Pfizer is the recommended vaccine for under-60s because of extremely rare but serious blood clots linked to AstraZeneca.

The Victorian and WA governments told people to stick to ATAGI advice, with Queensland going even further, actively discouraging under-40s from AstraZeneca.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young were accused of scaremongering after raising the rare blood clots.

Senior Morrison government minister Simon Birmingham said the statements damaged confidence in the vaccine rollout.

“They do help anti-vaxxers,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Thursday.

“That’s why they ought to take a calmer, more rational approach, listen to the many calm and thoughtful voices of the health profession across Australia.”

Dr Young reaffirmed her advice for people under 40 to wait for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in a fiery news conference.

“This is getting absolutely silly,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

The veteran doctor defended her 16 years’ involvement with Australia’s immunisation programs.

“I am on the record as supporting vaccination. But I want the right vaccine to go to the right person,” Dr Young said.

Doctors also savaged the prime minister’s intervention, accusing him of lobbing a hand grenade into the rollout.

ATAGI co-chair Christopher Blyth sought to quell confusion, saying people under 60 should get the Pfizer jab.

Professor Blyth said people in that age group should only be considering AstraZeneca in “pressing” circumstances.

“There are some situations where that would be warranted, but they are quite small,” he told ABC radio.

More than 2600 Australians under 40 have received AstraZeneca since the prime minister’s comments.

“It really is a matter for individuals to talk to their GPs who will be best placed to understand their individual circumstances, and to interpret the health advice available,” Senator Birmingham said.

Medical professionals distanced themselves from Dr Young’s remarks about blood clots, which are usually treatable.

A woman with serious underlying health conditions died in the UK five weeks after receiving her first dose of AstraZeneca in Australia.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was unclear whether the vaccine played a role in her death but some symptoms suggest she may have had the rare clotting condition.

In a statement, the regulator said a post-mortem would also look into whether long plane and car travel from Australia to the UK was a factor.

More than 12 million people are locked down across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and NSW.

Just under eight per cent of eligible Australians have received both coronavirus shots more than four months after the rollout started.

Despite mixed messages, a record 161,390 people rolled up their sleeves for a jab in the past 24 hours.

Matt Coughlan and Daniel McCulloch – Australian Associated Press

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