Australians aged between 50-69 will now be able to receive the COVID-19 jab from May – but only if they are happy with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Over 50s who are not already eligible to be vaccinated will now be able to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at respiratory clinics from May 3, and at GPs from May 17.
Teenagers as young as 16 will also now be eligible to be vaccinated as early as this year because the preferred vaccine for under 50s – Pfizer – is approved for older teenagers. But that’s unlikely until the end of the year.
Previously, the youngest age you could be vaccinated under Australia’s rollout plan was 18.
Announcing a major overhaul of Australia’s vaccination strategy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed that the vaccination strategy for over-50s will be fast-tracked.
Over half of the almost 1.8 million COVID vaccinations administered have now been delivered by GPs and they will continue to be the main driver of the scheme.
“Once again, the National Cabinet affirmed the importance of GPs being the principal way in which we’re seeking to vaccinate the country and the fact they’ve done half that job and it is only continuing to grow, I think underscores that,’’ the Prime Minister said.
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said the major driver of the decision to mark a divide between under 50s and over 50s using AstraZeneca was “clearly the advice in relation to this rare but significant adverse effect, thrombosis.”
“At this stage we will not be making Pfizer available to those 50 and over,’’ he said
“With a few exceptions, Pfizer is now restricted to those under 50,’’ he said.
While it remained “a choice” for over 50s to refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine and wait for Pfizer, he implied they could be waiting a while.
“Until we get more Pfizer supplies later in the year, those people who may choose not to have AstraZeneca, as the Prime Minister has always said, it is a choice,’’ Prof Murphy said.
“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.”
The process of vaccinating under 50s will not commence until all residential aged care patients are vaccinated.
It was originally expected to be completed by Easter but is now estimated to be finalised by the end of May.
“We have to finish off residential aged care. It’s nearly finished. Only a few more weeks to go and we have efficient teams going in there giving Pfizer to our aged care residents,’’ Prof Murphy said.
“We will soon have them completely protected and they are the single most high risk group in this country and all around the world from COVID.”