By Lydia Lynch
Queensland will continue to administer doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as it plans to ramp up the rollout of the Pfizer version.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the vaccine rollout in Queensland was still “business as usual” after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the recommendation that people younger than 50 be administered the Pfizer, rather than the AstraZeneca, COVID-19 vaccine.
That recommendation was made after an extremely rare clotting disorder was associated with the AstraZeneca jab.
On Friday, Mr Morrison announced Australia had secured 20 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine overnight, doubling the number the nation planned to buy.
“Australia will now receive a total of 40 million Pfizer doses in 2021,” he said.
“It is anticipated that these additional 20 million doses will be available in quarter four of this year.”
Ms Palaszczuk could not say how the revised advice would affect the timing of Queensland’s vaccine rollout.
“Look, I do not have those answers, my information is that it will not really impact the rollout,” she said.
“If anyone has any concerns, they should talk to their local GP. ”
Queensland Health has advised that in Europe, about one in every 250,000 people vaccinated with AstraZeneca was diagnosed with rare blood clots.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said AstraZeneca and Pfizer were both “good vaccines” and encouraged adults older than 50 to continue to accept either one.
“We do not know when we might have an outbreak of COVID-19, we have to be prepared so people must come forward and get vaccinated,” she said.
“The risk for anyone getting one of those rare complications from the AstraZeneca vaccine is very low, the risk for older people is extremely low.”
Dr Young said people younger than 50 could still receive the AstraZeneca vaccine if they wished and people should weigh up the risk with their GP.
She said the Commonwealth was looking at whether GPs might soon be able to administer the Pfizer vaccine after revised evidence indicated it no longer needed to be kept at minus 70 degrees.
The Pfizer vaccine was originally only being delivered at specialised vaccination hubs as it needed to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures and most Queenslanders were expected to receive the AstraZeneca jab from their GP.
“That has all changed,” Dr Young said.
“They have done a lot of studies over the past few months looking at the stability of the vaccine and you can actually store it for two weeks in a normal freezer rather than a minus 70 degrees freezer.
“Then you can store it for five days at a normal-temperature fridge.”
Mr Morrison said there would be a “recalibration” of Australia’s vaccine program, which was expected to allow the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered more broadly.
While the federal government was yet to make vaccine shipment timelines public, Dr Young said Queensland was expecting more doses of Pfizer soon.
“We are going to be getting more doses earlier, so it is not just the extra 20 million doses towards the end of the year, some of those other doses are actually going to arrive a bit earlier,” she said.
“So we will be able to roll out more Pfizer early.”
Speaking after national cabinet, Mr Morrison said the country now had four separate agreements for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novavax and COVAX.
“These agreements now total up to some 170 million doses,” he said.
Supply of COVAX and Novavax was not expected until later this year and was still subject to regulatory approvals.
Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk confirmed AstraZeneca would still be administered in the Torres Strait Islands as it battled the threat of an outbreak from Papua New Guinea.
More than a dozen health workers flew to PNG on Friday morning to help with the worsening COVID-19 crisis that threatened Australia’s northern border.
About 8000 vaccines have been sent to PNG from Australia, to vaccinate workers treating COVID-19 patients.