Australia will not give AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to people under the age of 50 years old, becoming the latest country to limit the vaccine’s use over the concerns of blood clots.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Thursday after receiving advice from the vaccine expert task force, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization.
The group’s advice “is clear that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe disease caused by COVID-19.”
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“The medical advice to the government is that the risk of blood clotting side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine is four to six in 1 million people, in the first four to 20 days post the vaccine. This is a rare but serious side effect,” Morrison said.
Based on that information, it is recommended that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine be given to people under the age of 50 years old and AstraZeneca’s vaccine should only be given as a first dose to people under 50 when the benefit “clearly outweighs the risk for that individual.”
Morrison said the group advises people who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine without any serious side effects to be given their second dose, including people under the age of 50.
The 50-year-old cut-off is based on the adverse side effects officials have observed, with blood clots being more common in young people and less common in older people, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said on Thursday.
Australia joins a long list of countries that have either suspended use of the vaccine or limited its administration to older recipients. Spain made a similar announcement hours before Australia, stating it will only give AstraZeneca’s vaccine to people older than 60 years old.
The European Medicines Agency published a report on Wednesday stating that the side effect of blood clots is very rare and the overall benefits outweigh any potential risks.