Australians aged 16 to 59 will now be eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, following a recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
In a statement on Thursday, ATAGI confirmed rumours that the age range to receive the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine would be raised from 50 and over to 60 and over.
“The recommendation is revised due to a higher risk and observed severity of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine observed in Australia in the 50-59 year old age group than reported internationally and initially estimated in Australia,” it said.
“For those aged 60 years and above, the individual benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are greater than in younger people. The risks of severe outcomes with COVID-19 increase with age and are particularly high in older unvaccinated individuals.
“The benefit of vaccination in preventing COVID-19 with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca outweighs the risk of TTS in this age group and underpins its ongoing use in this age group.”
TTS is a rare blood-clotting disorder that has been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, and has contributed to vaccine hesitancy among Australians. According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, there have been 60 confirmed and probable TTS cases in Australia. Two women have died from the side effect in Australia.
While Pfizer is now the preferred vaccine for those aged between 50 and 59, Australians who have already had their first dose of AstraZeneca and have not experienced serious side effects have been encouraged to receive their second AstraZeneca dose.
ATAGI noted data from the United Kingdom has shown ‘a substantially lower rate’ of blood-clotting following a second AstraZeneca dose.