The Queensland and New South Wales governments have confirmed that they will only inoculate Australians with the COVID-19 vaccine that has been recommended for their age group.
The development has come following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to open up the AstraZeneca jab to people under the age of 40, sparking confusion among the health community and across jurisdictions, and prompting backlash from Queensland’s outgoing chief health officer Jeannette Young.
Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles on Wednesday said state-run vaccination centres would ‘only provide to people the vaccine that is medically recommended for them’.
“We will not ignore the health advice,” he said during a press conference.
“For the prime minister to attempt to overrule the medical advice and provide a vaccine that is not recommended for people under 60 puts Queenslanders at risk.
“There is some discussion that the commonwealth may even provide their own vaccination hubs so they can get AstraZeneca vaccine out to younger people despite that vaccine not being recommended, and that would be very risky.”
Miles urged Queenslanders to take the health advice of state chief health officer Young, ‘not the advice of Scott Morrison’.
Dr Young told reporters she ‘genuinely’ didn’t understand the ‘thought processes’ behind Morrison’s move to open up AstraZeneca to younger Australians, but chief health officers would meet to discuss the matter on Wednesday.
Young said she was against under-40s receiving AstraZeneca due to their ‘increased risk of getting the rare clotting syndrome’.
“We’ve seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome. I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID probably wouldn’t die,” she said.
“We’ve had very few deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia in people under the age of 50, and wouldn’t it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland who dies related to this pandemic died because of the vaccine.”
Young argued that Australia’s position meant that vaccinating young people with AstraZeneca was unnecessary.
“We are not in a position that I need to ask young, fit, healthy people to put their health on the line [by] getting a vaccine that could potentially significantly harm them,” she said.
The NSW government has said its state-run vaccination hubs would, like Queensland, not give AstraZeneca to under 40s.
But the similarities end there. Asked whether she agreed with Young’s concerns, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said individuals should be able to ‘make personal choices, but they need to be informed’.
“The view I have is that, in a mass vaccination clinic, the detailed risk discussions cannot take place, and they are the best discussions to have with your general practitioner,” she said.
“There may be unique circumstances that a person is concerned about, and individuals have the right to make those decisions but they must be fully informed. And that is why we are providing AstraZeneca to over 60s where the risk benefit ratio is much clearer in favour of AstraZeneca because of the impact of COVID. But for younger people we really encourage you to go to your GP and just discuss your particular circumstances and have that discussion.”
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has also weighed in on the matter, suggesting that those under 40 should not be administered AstraZeneca.
“I can only advise what we have been advised by ATAGI. They say it shouldn’t happen. There is a different approach by the commonwealth to that advice. With health advice, lots of doctors give you different advice at different points in time,” he said.
“Clearly, the commonwealth has taken a different approach.”
The comments have come amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, prompting lockdowns in the Northern Territory, NSW, Queensland, and WA.