Australia restricts Pfizer vaccine to under-50s

Pfizer vaccines won’t be made available to residents over the age of 50, who are encouraged to use the AstraZeneca vaccine if they choose.

A vaccine is injected into a shoulder.
Australia’s Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy has confirmed that vaccinations for the over-50 will be brought forward to start from May 3. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN, April 22 (ANA) – During their national cabinet update on the Covid-19 vaccination programme on Thursday, Australian officials restricted the Pfizer vaccine to under-50s only and prioritised vaccinations for those over-50.

In a live commentary of the conference by The Guardian, Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy confirmed that Pfizer vaccines won’t be made available to residents over the age of 50, and that vaccinations for the elderly over-50 will be brought forward to start from May 3.

“Until we get more Pfizer supplies later in the year, those people who may choose not to have AstraZeneca… it is a choice,” said Murphy.

“We recommend AstraZeneca… the risk-benefit for over-50 is vastly in favour of being vaccinated.

“But people always have a choice, and more Pfizer will be available later in the year,” he said.

Murphy added that due to the split of vaccines between the over-50s and under, they would need to ensure adequate supply for the range of people under-50, such as aged-care workers, disability care workers and emergency service workers who need to be able to access the Pfizer shots at state Pfizer clinics.

According to the Department of Health’s official website, a total of 1,785,698 vaccine doses have been administered, with 695,923 being administered in State and Territory clinics.

Earlier this month, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) announced that it had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for its vaccination roll-out programme due to blood-clotting risks, and backed Pfizer.

The ATAGI later released a statement following further investigations into the blood-clotting cases that “only people aged 50 years or older should have the AstraZeneca vaccine” due to the very small number of people who show the side effect.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also waived the government’s national vaccine roll-out targets on the advice of the ATAGI and said in a statement on his Facebook page that they would not set new targets for completing administering first doses.

Meanwhile, in their bid to protect those most vulnerable, they are looking to maximise the vaccine doses currently available as they wait on the 40 million Pfizer jabs to arrive.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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