In a late-night announcement on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared all Australians, no matter their age, will be able to get their AstraZeneca jab at GP clinics under an indemnity scheme.
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said Australia had now passed 7.5 million vaccinations including 5.95 million first-dose vaccinations and over 126,000 vaccinations on Monday.
"AstraZeneca remains the preferred vaccine for people 60 years and over; that has not changed," he said.
"The advice of ATAGI is that Pfizer is the preferred for people under 60 and the clinical advice of ATAGI.
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"However, as has always been the case - and I think it is very important to emphasise this [is] on the basis of informed consent."
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What exactly has changed?
While Mr Hunt said Pfizer was preferred for people under 60, he said individual patients could make the decision to take up AstraZeneca - in consultation with their doctor - based on their circumstances and judgement.
"The difference is that the access for those who are of all ages, for the AstraZeneca vaccine, will be available through general practices," Mr Hunt said.
"[There is an] update to the GPs which is going out during the course of today and also the change to the Medicare item which will now allow over the coming days for everybody under 50 also to seek a vaccine consultation if they so desire."
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation's (ATAGI) recommends Pfizer "is preferred" over AstraZeneca for people aged 16 to 60 years.
"The benefits (of having AstraZeneca if you are under 60) are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual (if) the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits."
Should I book in an AstraZeneca shot, or wait for Pfizer?
Bendigo Primary Care Centre clinical director Sheriden Emonson, from Victoria's south, said the current vaccine options available to Australians were between Pfizer and AstraZeneca and people should weigh up their options.
"We need to weigh up the potential risks of a vaccine versus potential risk of COVID-19 outbreak in our community. We want to be protected against the coronavirus," Dr Emonson said.
"The Department of Health states that if you received your first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and did not experience abnormal side effects, ATAGI recommends you still receive your second AstraZeneca dose.
"The best way to get to a new normal is to be immune and at the moment we have Pfizer and AstraZeneca."
What is the chance of getting TTS (blood clots) from AstraZeneca?
ATAGI stated from early April to 16 June 2021, 60 cases of confirmed or probable thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) have been reported in Australia.
ATAGI said the risk of TTS following a second dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is much lower than the risk following a first dose.
Meanwhile, the estimated risk of getting a blood clot per year from being on the contraceptive pill is one in 2,500, or 40 in 100,000 (almost 13 times more likely than getting a blood clot from AstraZeneca for people aged under 50).
What side effects might I get?
The Australian Government Department of Health states people may have some temporary side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the same as receiving any vaccine (like the flu shot).
Common side effects after AstraZeneca include:
- injection site pain or tenderness
- muscle pain
- fever and chills
Most side effects are mild and temporary, going away within one or two days.
As with any medicine or vaccine, there may be rare and/or unknown side effects.
Dr Emonson, 44, received her second dose of AstraZeneca on Saturday. She said she had no major adverse reaction to either of her shots.
What could the chat with my GP look like?
Dr Emonson encouraged people to look at all the facts and make the right choice for themselves and the community about getting vaccinated.
"As GPs our position is really important to speak to people and help them feel empowered to make the right decision for them," she said.
"We encourage people to think about themselves, their loved ones and getting back to a new normal.
"We want people to weigh these thoughts and then make the decision about the vaccines."
Who is an essential worker for the jab?
The Australian Government Department of Health states that essential workers for the 16 to 39 age group are:
- Quarantine and border workers
- Aged and disability care workers
- Disability care residents
- Frontline healthcare workers
- Other healthcare workers
- Household contact of quarantine and border workers
- Critical and high risk workers
- Traveller with a travel exemptions
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Person with an underlying medical conditions
- Other eligible individuals
Should I mix vaccinations?
The Australian Government Department of Health states for greater coverage against coronavirus, if you've had your first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and did not experience abnormal side effects, ATAGI recommends you still receive your second AstraZeneca dose.