NSW COVID outbreak continues, Bondi Junction, Vaucluse, Redfern, Zetland added to NSW exposure sites, bank outage across country, AstraZeneca vaccine age recommendation jumps
There was a sharp drop in demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine today as people across the country cancel their appointments, several medical clinics and doctors told our reporters.
Earlier today, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that Pfizer is now the preferred vaccine for people under 60 and the government will immediately switch to open access for those 40 to 59.
In Melbourne, doctors say patients are calling in droves to cancel their AstraZeneca appointments. General practitioner Todd Cameron, who runs several medical practices, said a wave of cancellations led him to cancel two vaccination clinics due to administer 500 doses of AstraZeneca to patients over the weekend.
He predicts that thousands of additional appointments for AstraZeneca doses, scheduled in the coming weeks for the 50-60 age group, will also be canceled. “This will massively delay the deployment of the vaccine,” said Dr Cameron. “Public confidence in the vaccine has once again been completely shaken.”
Nathan Pinskier, who runs several GP practices in Melbourne, said doctors were preparing for the pushback of people over 60, who may no longer want the AstraZeneca vaccine. “It’s pretty clear that for anyone over 60, the risk of getting AstraZeneca is much lower than if you’re in a younger age group and it remains a safe vaccine. But getting that out to people is going to be very difficult, ”he said.
He was concerned that doctors would end up with a huge oversupply of AstraZeneca and not enough Pfizer. “The question is, will we have enough Pfizer in the coming months or will we end up with this massive supply of AZ and no one to give it to?”
In Sydney, where new locally acquired cases have emerged in the eastern suburbs, the Bondi Junction Respiratory Clinic expected to be “totally overwhelmed by the demand for the first doses”.
“This did not happen,” said commercial director Vladimir Stamenkovic. Instead, around 20% of clinic appointments at AstraZeneca on Thursday were canceled, including 10 of the first 40 people registered.
Mr Stamenkovic said he expected first dose cancellations in people aged 50 to 59 because of the changes, but “surprisingly” among those who canceled their appointments there were people scheduled to receive their second dose.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “There’s no indication or advice that says if you’ve had your first AstraZeneca, you can’t get your second shot. “
In fact, people in their 50s who received their first dose of AstraZeneca were urged to get their second – which is less risky – as they would have before the new advice.
And West Australians aged 50 to 59 who have booked their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will now receive the Pfizer vaccine following updated advice from federal health officials. The changes will put more pressure on Pfizer’s already limited supplies, but Premier Mark McGowan has said the 38,000 first-dose appointments booked by those aged 30 to 39 would be honored.