The Prime Minister has stressed there is no blanket ban on people under 50 taking the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite its links to a rare form of blood clotting.
Scott Morrison has stressed the AstraZeneca vaccine has not been banned after health authorities slapped a warning on the jab for people under 50.
The government’s rollout plan has been plunged into chaos over revelations the AstraZeneca jab, which had been set to account for most vaccinations in Australia, was linked to a rare but deadly form of blood clotting.
Mr Morrison announced on Thursday night authorities had recommended the Pfizer vaccine as the preferred jab for 11.2 million Australians aged between 18 and 49.
But speaking after a meeting of national cabinet on Friday, the Prime Minister stressed there was no blanket ban on the AstraZeneca jab, which he declared a “lifesaving vaccine”.
“It is not a prohibition on the AstraZeneca vaccine, it recommends and notes that the risk of these side effects are remote. They are very rare,” he said.
“There was no instruction not to take that vaccine. There is an acknowledgment of the risk that is there, but as is the case always with these matters these are decisions for Australians.”
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Mr Morrison claimed AstraZeneca remained a “critical component” for the nation’s rollout strategy, and rejected suggestions confidence in the vaccine had been irreparably undermined.
“The information is very clear that if you’re over the age of 50, it is recommended that you do have the vaccine,” he said.
“You would be putting yourself at risk if you didn’t get the vaccine … COVID is a much greater threat by a factor many, many times over than the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
He declared the government’s priority remained completing phase 1A and 1B of the rollout, the bulk of which was made up of people over 50.
“This is important because the goal here is to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
“If we want to treat COVID-19 like the flu then we need to ensure that we’re vaccinating those in our community who are most vulnerable.
“The most vulnerable people in our community are not just over 50, they are actually a lot older than that.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is well suited to address those critical vulnerable groups.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed plans for the early stages of Australia’s rollout remained “largely unchanged” by Thursday’s development.
Mr Morrison also confirmed national cabinet had agreed on more transparent daily and weekly reporting of vaccination figures, including a state-by-state breakdown and the number of distributed, administered, and available doses.
The federal government’s previous reporting system had been criticised as opaque.
The meeting of federal, state, and territory leaders also agreed to the principles of Australia COVID-19 management and reopening strategy, Mr Morrison revealed.
He said that would include advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that ticketed and seated gatherings could hold a full capacity, while keeping internal borders open would remain a priority.
“The message from national cabinet is: we want to open up more, we want to do it safely, we want to ease restrictions, we want to do that in a consistent way across the country,” Mr Morrison said.
“We want to do that because we know we are not just managing the health, but we are managing the economics as well for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.
“This is going to be an ongoing and increasing focus of the national cabinet.”
Mr Morrison confirmed Australia had bought an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, taking its total order to 40 million.