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Australia has ordered 20million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine after the AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to potentially deadly blood clots.
The vaccines - taking Australia's Pfizer jab total to 40 million - are due to arrive in the final three months of 2021.
On Thursday night the government received advice from its scientists that the Pfizer vaccine was preferred in adults under 50 because of evidence from Europe that the AstraZeneca vaccines causes blood clots in extremely rare cases. © Provided by Daily MailAustralia has ordered 20million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine after the AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to potentially deadly bloodclots
Australia had relied heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine with 53.8million doses ordered. It is also the only jab that it can manufacture onshore at the CSL factory in Melbourne.
Australia's Pfizer vaccines were due to arrive at a rate of 130,000 from April, but Health Minister Greg Hunt said this will now hugely expand and double by July.
The government did not reveal how much the extra vaccines cost or which country they will come from. Australia's told spend on vaccines is about $4billion.
"I want my mum to get it, and that's why I want your mum to get it "
Scott Morrison on AstraZeneca jab
Mr Morrison said Australians can still choose to take the the AstraZeneca jab if they want.
'It is not a ban on the AstraZeneca 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. We are talking in the vicinity of five to six per million which is a rather rare event. But it must be acknowledged,' Mr Morrison said.
'It's important so Australians can make informed decisions about their vaccination and their health care with their medical professionals, with their doctor.
'So there was no instruction not to take that vaccine. There is an acknowledgement of the risk that is there but as is the case always with these matters these are decisions for Australians.'
The prime minster encouraged Australians over 50 to have the AstraZeneca jab because they are less at risk of the clotting events and more at risk of getting seriously sick from Covid-19.
'You would be putting yourself at risk if you didn't get the vaccine, because you would be exposing yourself to the more likely event of a COVID contracted condition that could result in serious illness,' he said.
'That's why I want my mum to get it, and that's why I want your mum to kept get it, and your dad, your uncle, your aunt, your brother, your sister. That's a life-saving vaccine.' © Provided by Daily MailIn March more than a dozen countries suspended the AstraZeneca jab after a handful of European patients suffered brain blockages that can cause strokes
© Provided by Daily MailAustralia has advised citizens aged under 50 against receiving AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine (pictured, a vaccine vial)
The government received its advice late on Thursday from vaccine advisory group ATAGI which promoted the health alert after European authorities confirmed a link between the AstraZeneca jab and rare blood clots.
The United Kingdom also offered people under 30 an alternative vaccine due to the risk, with health experts in that country saying evidence suggested young people are more susceptible to the blood clots following vaccination than older people.
Experts revealed people in their 20s had about a one in 90,000 chance of developing the side effect after receiving the AstraZeneca jab compared to one in 500,000 in the over 60s.
Their increased risk, combined with the fact younger people are statistically very unlikely to fall severely ill with Covid, led to the UK's restriction of the vaccine in healthy 18-to-30-year-olds.
One person in Australia so far has developed the clots after receiving the AstraZeneca jab, a man in his 40s who was admitted to hospital in Melbourne.
But Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the adverse reaction to the jab was so rare it was not picked up in clinical trials.
'At the moment, it seems to be around four to six per million doses of vaccine. It's only been found in the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, usually within four to 10 days after that vaccine,' he said.
'But it is serious and it can cause up to a 25 per cent death rate when it occurs.'
Your two-minute guide to changes in Australia's Coivd vaccine rollout
New AstraZeneca recommendations:
- The use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over AstraZeneca in Australian adults under 50 who have not already received their first AstraZeneca dose
- Australian immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 where the benefit clearly outweighs the risk
- Australians who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose, including those under 50
- Australians who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given a second dose
- Australia's Department of Health further develop and refine resources for informed consent that clearly convey the AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits and the risks
How will this affect Australia's Covid-19 vaccination rollout?
- Rollout plan will be recalibrated and re-evaluated
- End of October timeline for every Australian to receive first vaccine dose in doubt
- Phase 1b - which includes younger adults with a medical condition or disability and frontline health workers among others - may be delayed
- Pfizer vaccine will be reprioritised for under 50s once phase 1a finishes
- Australia's vaccine purchases under review
How often do AstraZeneca blood clots occur?
- Four to six cases per million AstraZeneca vaccine doses
- One known Australian case found in a 44-year-old man admitted to hospital in Melbourne
- 25 per cent death rate in known cases
- More common among younger people
- Cause unknown
How the AstraZeneca vaccine works:
- Adenovirus vaccine - To make the vaccine, the common cold virus is genetically modified to trigger it to make the Covid spike protein - which the virus uses to invade cells.
- When the vaccine is administered the patient's immune system attacks the spike protein by building antibodies, priming it to fight off Covid before it leads to an infection.
The recommendations provided by ATAGI were made under an 'abundance of caution' of the rare but serious side effects mostly associated with younger people, Mr Morrison said.
'We've been taking the necessary precautions based on the best possible medical advice. It is not our practice to jump at shadows,' he said.
Professor Kelly said the use of the Pfizer vaccine is now preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults aged under 50 who have not already received a first dose of that vaccine.
ATAGI did recommend those under the age of 50 who have received their first AstraZeneca jab should proceed with their second, as the medical advice indicates the rare blood clots only develop after the first dose.
Only where the benefit clearly outweighs the risk should an initial AstraZeneca dose be administered to someone under the age of 50.
WHAT ARE THE BLOOD CLOTS LINKED TO ASTRAZENECA'S JAB?
European health chiefs ruled that AstraZeneca's jab should come with a warning that, in very rare cases, it may cause potentially deadly blood clots.
The EMA, which polices the safety of drugs used on the continent, spotted 169 cases of cerebral vein thrombosis (CVST) and 53 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis (SVT), from 34million jabs.
CVST occurs when a vein that drains blood from the brain is blocked by a clot. It can lead to a stroke.
SVT is the same type of blood clot but it occurs in the digestive system.
Both the EMA and their UK counterparts said the clots had occurred alongside thrombocytopenia - low levels of blood platelets. © Provided by Daily MailThe EMA, which polices the safety of drugs used on the continent, spotted 169 cases of cerebral vein thrombosis (CVST) and 53 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis (SVT), from 34million jabs. CVST occurs when a vein that drains blood from the brain is blocked by a clot. It can lead to a stroke. SVT is the same type of blood clot but it occurs in the digestive system
WHAT EXACTLY IS CVST AND SHOULD I BE WORRIED?
CVST is where potentially fatal clots form in the veins that run from the brain.
Unusually, this is occurring with thrombocytopenia - abnormally low levels of blood cells called platelets.
Platelets cause blood to clot, so while not unheard of, it is incredibly rare for people with low levels to develop clots.
The most severe signs of CVST include stroke-like symptoms such as weakness of the face and limbs on one side of the body, seizures, coma and ultimately death.
But anyone who has suffered headaches, blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, abdominal pain and bruising or pinpoint spots below the vaccination site for four days after a jab should seek medical attention.
HOW COULD THE JAB BE CAUSING BLOOD CLOTS?
Scientists are exploring several possibilities.
European investigators have put forward one theory that the vaccine triggers an unusual antibody in some rare cases, similar to conditions seen in patients treated with the anticoagulant - commonly known as blood thinner - heparin.
The autoimmune disorder called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) leads to plummeting platelet counts and clotting.
Others are looking at whether the cases - which seem more common in women - are linked to birth control pills.
However, at the moment scientists say there is no definitive evidence.