Politicians across Parliament are calling for Australians to have confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a growing list of Labor and Liberal luminaries rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID shot.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Labor deputy leader Richard Marles and shadow minister Linda Burney all were injected with AstraZeneca and encouraged Aussies to have confidence in the vaccine, as real-world data shows it has huge benefits in reducing death and illness.
“I’ve had my first AstraZeneca shot as soon as I became eligible and I’m about to get my second one,” Ms Burney told The New Daily.
“Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do for your family, community and country. We all have a responsibility to get vaccinated.”
The latest AstraZeneca data, based on real-world evidence from those who received the shot in England, found just a single dose of the two-dose jab was 80 per cent effective in preventing COVID death, and reduced likelihood of hospitalisation by 73 per cent.
But Australian doctors reported patients had concerns about the vaccine, after it was linked to a small number of blood clot or low blood platelet issues around the world – known as ‘thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome’, or TTS.
The TGA’s latest report found 24 cases of TTS in Australia out of 2.1 million doses of AstraZeneca given – representing just one TTS case per 100,000 doses in Australia.
The most common side effects of the COVID vaccines are also those “commonly experienced with vaccines generally”, the TGA said, like headache or muscle pain.
Politicians line up for AstraZeneca vaccine
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said AstraZeneca was “safe”, noting his wife, mother and mother-in-law got that vaccine.
TND spoke to several politicians who also received AstraZeneca, all of whom encouraged Australians to follow suit.
Ms Burney was vaccinated alongside Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, in March.
Ms Gillard was vaccinated at the same time as Mr Hunt, at a Melbourne clinic on March 7.
“No matter what side of politics you barrack for, no matter who you intend to vote for, there is a united message. And that united message is, please get the vaccine,” she said in March.
In a statement to TND, a spokesperson for Ms Gillard said she was looking forward to getting her second jab shortly.
“She is grateful to be in a position to receive the vaccination, and to play her part in protecting the broader community from COVID-19,” they said.
“Ms Gillard is deeply appreciative of the healthcare workers rolling out the vaccine globally.”
The former PM said she “only felt the expected minor and short-term effects from her first dose and is happy to be scheduled for her second”.
On Tuesday, Labor’s Mr Marles became the most senior current Opposition member to get the AstraZeneca shot. He called it “perfectly safe”.
(Mr Morrison received the Pfizer vaccine, as part of the first doses in the country.)
“I encourage you to head down to your local GP or vaccine centre to get the COVID vaccine,” Mr Marles said.
Hunt backs ‘safe and effective’ AstraZeneca
The list of politicians and health experts to have received AstraZeneca includes:
- Health department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy
- Victorian chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
- Former prime minister Tony Abbott
- West Australian Premier Mark McGowan
- ABC presenter Dr Norman Swan
- Ms Gillard
- Mr Marles
- Mr Hunt
- Ms Burney
- Mr Wyatt.
“You’re more likely to get a clot at whatever age you are on a long-haul flight to Europe or North America than you are getting this jab,” Professor Sutton said in April, calling it a “really small” risk.
Esteemed immunologist Professor Peter Doherty said he was looking forward to “getting my second AstraZeneca jab next month”.
“The more people are vaccinated now, the faster we’ll get to a fully vaccinated population after the mRNA vaccines arrive,” he tweeted.
Professor Murphy, the nation’s former chief medical officer, said he and his wife had both taken AstraZeneca.
“I had no adverse effects whatsoever after my vaccination, and I’m very much looking forward to getting my second dose at the end of the month,” he told TND.
“I can understand that some Australians may be concerned from what they see and hear in the news and on social media. If you are concerned, please talk to your doctor, seek medical advice and make your own judgement.”
“I remain very supportive of this vaccine for the recommended population.”
Wednesday and Thursday saw the largest vaccination totals of the rollout, 95,500 and 92,800 respectively, taking Australia’s total to 3.371 million doses.
Mr Hunt told TND he hoped Australians would take confidence in growing numbers of people already taking the vaccine, and looked forward to taking his second dose shortly.
“I obviously took it at the first available opportunity, with Brendan Murphy and Julia Gillard. We took it on the basis of medical advice, that it is safe and effective. It’s immensely important for as many people as possible to get the vaccine,” he said.
“The medical advice is clear. Side effects are exceptionally rare … this is our chance to protect ourselves and everyone around us.”
Mr Hunt admitted he felt “a tiny bit tired” after his first dose, but said – as the TGA noted – such effects were common with many vaccines, not exclusive to COVID jabs.
“These vaccinations can literally help save your life,” he said.
“The news from Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, all jurisdictions that had done incredibly well but are having resurgences of cases, proves we’re doing incredibly well but we’re not immune.”