Second Aussie case of blood clot linked to Astra jab
A second case involving an Australian recipient of the AstraZeneca vaccine has emerged.
The new case involves a woman in her 40s who was vaccinated in Western Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said the woman remains in hospital receiving treatment, and is in a stable condition.
It comes after the first case involving a 44-year-old man from Melbourne led to an official review of the vaccine after he was taken to hospital with a blood clot after getting the AstraZeneca jab back in March.
Today, an Australian man in his 80s has died in a Queensland hospital after contracting COVID-19.
The man's case of the deadly virus was detected after he arrived in Australia from the Philippines, having transmitted through Papua New Guinea.
"Sadly, a seventh person with COVID-19 has died," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.
"The 80-year-old returned traveller died in hospital, after contracting coronavirus overseas. He was diagnosed while in hotel quarantine and admitted to hospital on 25 March."
The man tested positive on the same day that he initially entered hospital on March 25.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the man spent time in ICU, but had been in reduced care when he died.
Dr Young also said the man's death caused no issue to the state's plans to ease restrictions.
"There is no risk to anyone in the community from this case," Dr Young said.
PM TURNS DOWN NEW VACCINE
Australia will miss out on the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, the federal government has confirmed.
A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government had decided against pursuing the vaccine because it is based on similar technology to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"The (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine, the same type of vaccine as the AstraZeneca vaccine," they said in a statement.
The European drug regulator revealed it is reviewing rare blood clots suffered by recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was investigating four serious cases but it was unclear at this stage if the clots were related to the vaccine or another medical issue.
Three of the cases occurred during the US rollout where nearly five million had been given the vaccine by Thursday, while one was during a clinical trial.
In one of the cases, the person died from the complication.
Johnson & Johnson said it was aware of the review and was working with regulators to assess the issue, but insisted "no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine".
The major pharmaceutical's jab is currently only available in the US and was scheduled to be issued in the European Union in coming weeks.
The complication comes amid concerns with the AstraZeneca shot, which is threatening to derail confidence in the vaccine rollout.
Epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, insisted the extremely rare complications in each of the vaccines far outweighed the threat of COVID-19.
"It's all about putting into proportion the risk of death to our elderly group who represent 100 per cent of all coronavirus deaths in Australia," she told NCA NewsWire.
"They only die if they get COVID, so to keep them from getting infected we have to ring-fence them.
"In the context of a pandemic, there's this enormous risk of this older group dying so you want to protect them by vaccinating everybody, but particularly the young ones who have a greater risk of acquiring it and transmitting it."
Despite Australia not yet committing to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the hiccup from the EMA this week threatens to complicate an already increasing supply issue across the globe.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday refused to commit to the nation's jab rollout being completed this year as Professor McLaws offered a far more gloomy timeline - she expects delays to vaccine supply leading to Australia's borders remaining closed up until the end 2022.
The AstraZeneca shot won't be offered to Australians under the age of 50 following advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which will free-up supply for the older cohort.
"So now that we have less people requiring AstraZeneca, we've got a little bit more (supply) space," the professor said.
"But if we want to open up anytime soon next year, that supply of AstraZeneca is going to have to be increased to get people vaccinated in time because there's a three-month delay between the first and the second shot.
"So just because fewer people need it, doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet because the government is going to have to run two cohorts and they're going to have to match the speed so we can open up our borders."
TOP DOC CAN'T GIVE FIGURE ON PFIZER
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly says he can't say how many Pfizer doses will arrive per week and whether there are enough doses to give to frontline workers under the age of 50.
Dr Kelly refused to put a time frame on when Australians would get their first dose.
"With this new information we have over the last few days, we need to recalibrate what we are doing with the program," he told reporters.
"I won't give a number or date. But we are absolutely committed to providing the vaccine to anyone, any adult Australian, who wants the vaccine - as quickly as possible."
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison axed setting any vaccine target as it is impossible to know whether every Australian will receive a vaccine shot before the end of the year.
Mr Morrison said there were too many uncertainties involved in the rollout to set new targets.
"The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set, any new targets for completing first doses," he said on Facebook.
"While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.
"We will just get on with the job of working together to produce, distribute and administer the vaccines as safely and efficiently as possible."
The government has distributed updated consent forms and consumer information on the vaccine after ATAGI recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to under 50s.
The federal government has secured an extra 20 million Pfizer vaccines to overcome rollout delays.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said GPs were joining the rollout, with 4000 on board.
He said the federal government had vaccine indemnity agreements in place that protected doctors from legal exposure in the event of a claim of medical negligence, as many were holding off giving the jab without confirmation of this.
"The AMA and college of general practitioners have clear advice in writing from the government to that effect and they also have updated informed consent material," he said.
"I am saying this on behalf of the government but also on behalf of our legal advice: no doctor need worry."
In letters to the AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners seen by The Australian, Mr Hunt said the federal government would reimburse medical indemnity insurers for 50 per cent of eligible claims above $500,000 in relation to the administration of vaccines.
AUSSIES WANT JAB BUT PM'S HANDLING DIVIDES
A majority of Australians still want to get the coronavirus vaccine despite recent concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine, but opinion is divided on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a Ray Morgan snap poll, the number of Australians who say they will receive a COVID-19 jab has increased with 69 per cent of Australians willing to be vaccinated, seven per cent had already received a jab and seven per cent were willing to be vaccinated once the Pfizer dose becomes available - totalling 83 per cent and three points higher than in February.
The snap SMS poll conducted on April 9 and 10 also revealed support for vaccines was split depending on political allegiance.
Only 13 per cent of Liberal votes said they would refuse a jab, increasing to more than one-in-five Labor and Green voters.
The nation is split on Mr Morrison's handling of all COVID-19 related issues with 51 per cent disapproving of Mr Morrison's handling of the pandemic and 49 per cent approving.
Victoria is the state most unhappy with the Federal Government's handling of the pandemic, with 62 per cent of residents disapproving while 54 per cent of NSW residents were happy with Mr Morrison's performance.
"Despite the slower than expected rollout of COVID-19 vaccines the increasing support for being vaccinated is a positive sign that vaccine coverage will reach a large majority of the population when the vaccine rollout is completed - which may not be until early 2022 and current rates," Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levin said.
FEARS OVER NZ TRAVEL BUBBLE
Excitement at the opening of Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand has been tempered by fears that failure could do more damage to fragile consumer confidence.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has called for a slower return to international travel to allow the vaccination rollout to reach a point where consumers could book with confidence, The Australian reports.
AFTA chairman Tom Manwaring said the bubble could do more harm than good.
"We say that reluctantly but in the travel industry there is a lot of trepidation that if there are some more COVID cases in Auckland as a result of those flights from India, that will result in a shutdown," Mr Manwaring said.
"That would be another blow to the travel industry, on top of the damage that's occurred over the last 14 months."
Mr Manwaring said there was a "fear factor" that travel could be interrupted.
"New Zealand's Prime Minister said 'be prepared for disruption'. You can't plan an
international holiday and talk about disruption. People can't plan their lives like that," he said.
AUSSIES UNDER 50 CAN STILL GET ASTRA JAB
There is no ban on Australians aged under 50 getting AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and they can still have it after discussing the risk with their GP.
And Australians aged over 50 would be putting themselves at risk if they don't get the jab Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as he tried to rebuild confidence in the immunisation rollout.
"I want my mum to get it," he said.
Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout had to be recalibrated after an expert government panel ruled on Thursday night that the Pfizer vaccine should be the preferred option for those aged under 50 because of the very rare risk the AstraZeneca shot vaccine might cause blood clots.
Currently the Pfizer supplies are arriving at the rate of just 130,000 doses a week and are not due to substantially increase until July when they will more than double.
The 20 million extra doses purchased yesterday will not arrive until the final three months of this year.
Australians aged under 50 who don't want to wait for a Pfizer vaccine can still ask for the AstraZeneca vaccine if they discuss the risk with their doctor, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in those under 50 where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk for that individual and the person has made an informed decision," RACGP President Karen Price said.
Those aged over 50 will be given the AstraZeneca vaccine because their risk from COVID is far greater than the risk from the vaccine.
One upside of placing greater reliance on the Pfizer shot is it could speed up the date at which everyone receives two doses of vaccine.
There is only a three week wait between doses of the Pfizer vaccine compared to a three month gap between AstraZeneca shots.
Currently the Pfizer vaccine is being distributed through hospitals because it has to be kept at super-cold temperatures and this could hamper the current rollout which is using GPs and pharmacists.
However, new rules say it can be stored for a short time at ordinary refrigeration temperate and this could mean GPs are able to deliver the shot, but that is still being discussed.
The troubled vaccine program which was already way behind schedule dissolved into confusion yesterday as state governments stopped providing the AstraZeneca jab to nurses and other medicos.
Later in the day they said it was a temporary halt while they updated consent forms to include advice about the risk of blood clots.
Queensland University of Technology's Professor Ross Gordon said the AstraZeneca blood clot risk had put "a major dent in the vaccination strategy".
"People appreciate timely, clear, transparent, easily understood and honest information on which to base their health decisions. Unfortunately, this has been lacking so far in the Australian vaccination strategy," he said.
Australia's vaccine rollout is way behind target and we trail the world ranking 50th in terms of the number of doses delivered.
Nepal, the Dominican Republic and Colombia have delivered more doses than us.
Just 5.5 per cent of our population has received a shot compared to over 33 per cent of people in the US and over 47 per cent in the UK.
The government had promised four million people would be vaccinated by April 1 but only just cracked delivering one million doses on April 8.
Originally published as Second Aussie case of blood clot linked to Astra jab