Epidemiologists are urging Australians over the age of 50 not to wait for alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine, warning of a “false sense of security” about the risks still posed by COVID-19.
More than 3.3 million vaccine doses have now been administered across the country but some doctors are concerned Australians are “sitting ducks” from potential outbreaks until many more people are protected.
Professor Catherine Bennett from Deakin University said she was concerned by case numbers in countries like Thailand and Singapore, which had earlier successes in limiting the spread of the virus.
“People need to see these other countries as a warning that this could happen in Australia, we know how to contain the virus but at the same time we can’t guarantee that we won’t have an episode where it does start to take off in the community,” she said.
“And the best thing we can all do to prevent against that or prevent that from becoming a wave in Australia is to get vaccinated.”
Blood clotting concerns causing some Aussies to hold off
South Australian man Dean, 52, who did not want his surname used, said he was concerned by reports of rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He would prefer to wait for Pfizer or Moderna doses, due in Australia towards the end of this year.
“You know if I was living in Delhi right now I’d probably have a totally different attitude but living in South Australia, we haven’t had any major outbreaks since November last year,” he said.
“Talking to all my contemporaries who are between 51 and 55, I can’t say any of them have yet rolled up their sleeves and gone and got AstraZeneca.”
The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for Australians under the age of 50, however the government insists AstraZeneca is safe for those over 50.
“My mum’s had AstraZeneca, Jenny’s had AstraZeneca,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
“My mother-in-law’s had AstraZeneca, (Health Minister) Greg Hunt’s had AstraZeneca, and so have so many across the country.”
Mr Hunt said on Wednesday that while he wanted to encourage everyone over 50 to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“As supply increases later on in the year, there will be enough … mRNA vaccines for every Australian,” he said.
But Professor Bennett implored people not to wait.
“It’s important that people understand that it’s kind of a false sense of security that we can keep the virus out indefinitely and that we have this luxury of time,” she said.
“The most important thing we can do is get as many people vaccinated as we can so that should the virus get into the community we are still able to contain it.”