Hopes of Australia fast-tracking its struggling vaccine rollout have been thrown into doubt by Queensland‘s stubborn chief medical officer Dr Jeanette Young, who is refusing to endorse the AstraZeneca jab for young people.
Dr Young was steadfast in her refusal on Monday to endorse the vaccine for Queenslanders under the age of 60, placing her firmly at odds with her counterpart in NSW Kerry Chant who is urging Sydneysiders to get jabbed regardless of age.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that high vaccination rates are Australia’s ticket to freedom, and the solution to ending the vicious cycle of lockdowns.
It is a position backed by state leaders.
Dr Young maintains the AZ vaccine should only be available to people over the age of 60, even though Australia’s regulatory body has changed their advice to encourage all Australians to come forward.
Queensland’s CHO Jeanette Young remained steadfast in her refusal to endorse the jab for young people on Monday
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s latest advice states that increased transmissibility of the Delta variant outweighs any minor risks associated with the AstraZeneca jab.
‘In a large outbreak, the benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups,’ the advice states.
‘ATAGI reiterates that all adults in greater Sydney should strongly consider the benefits of earlier protection with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca rather than waiting for alternative vaccines.’
But Dr Young is standing by the advice she gave to Queenslanders in mid June after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian – on the advice of her own chief health officer, Kerry Chant – made a public plea for Sydneysiders to get jabbed, regardless of their age.
‘I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die,’ Dr Young said at the time.
Many felt Dr Young had the luxury of holding that opinion because her state had remained relatively Covid-free and contained outbreaks with short, sharp lockdowns.
Dr Chant appeared on our screens just one hour after Dr Young this morning, appealing for young people to get vaccinated in droves
But Queensland has now recorded 31 cases of the highly-infectious Delta variant in just three days, prompting a resurgence in questions about the use of AstraZeneca.
On Monday, Dr Young confirmed her opinion had not changed.
‘I said I didn’t want 18-year-olds to have AstraZeneca. And I still don’t. Even now,’ she said, adding that nobody under the age of 60 should consider AstraZeneca.
The mixed messaging is no doubt putting further strain on the federal government’s push to have as many people vaccinated as possible by year’s end.
Meanwhile Dr Chant appeared on our screens just one hour after Dr Young this morning, appealing for young people to get vaccinated in droves.
New South Wales recorded a further 207 community Covid cases overnight, and Ms Berejiklian – following Dr Chant’s advice – was adamant that higher vaccination rates would be the key to seeing cases drop and lockdown lifted.
Pictured: People queuing to receive their vaccine at the hub in Homebush
When asked about Dr Young’s comments, Dr Chant said: ‘My view is that we follow the ATAGI advice and ATAGI has looked at risk benefits. The advice is for people to have the discussion about the risks and benefits.
‘Everyone has got their personal considerations. They live in different parts of the city. Their risk is different and so for me, it is around informed consent,’ she said.
Dr Chant said anyone who has waited more than four weeks since getting their first dose of AstraZeneca should book in for their second jab immediately.
Australians living in areas with coronavirus outbreaks were urged to shorten the time between their first and second AstraZeneca jabs to four to eight weeks instead of the usual 12 on July 24 by ATAGI.
‘Can I stress that August is the month where we all should come forward and get vaccinated,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
New South Wales recorded another 207 cases of Covid-19 on Monday as Sydney continues to grapple with an outbreak of the highly-contagious Delta variant
‘It will be a combination of seeing where the case numbers are in a month’s time as well as the rate of vaccination that determines what August 29 looks like.’
The NSW premier said the priority was vaccinating the state’s ‘mobile’ residents aged between 20 and 40 – particularly in the eight local government areas in Sydney’s west and south-west where the virus is spreading the most rapidly.
She said on Monday health officials would have to get 9.2 million jabs in arms across the state to reach a vaccination target of 70 per cent, which she has repeatedly said would trigger an easing of lockdown restrictions.
‘Vaccines are working extremely effectively,’ she said. ‘We still don’t know of anybody in intensive care [in NSW] who has received both doses of the vaccine.
Australian Defence Force personnel are pictured enforcing the city’s lockdown in Fairfield in Sydney’s south-west on Monday morning
‘We are at 3.9 million jabs already. Five million jabs means we’re halfway to the 80 per cent target and 9.2 million jabs gets us to 70 per cent.’
NSW’s vaccination rate sits at about 15 per cent for those who have received both jabs and 32 per cent have received only one dose.
But with 82,000 doses distributed in 24 hours and 4.5 million more Pfizer jabs to be delivered to Australia in August, federal health officials are confident NSW could carry out about 650,000 vaccinations a week.
At that rate, NSW could hit its target of 70 per cent coverage by early September.
Meanwhile in Queensland, 921,750 vaccine doses have been administered in total.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews supported Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement that vaccines would be the key to ending lockdown, urging young people to consider the AstraZeneca shot.
‘AstraZeneca is safe, but it is really important to have a conversation about your individual circumstances,’ he said.