From now on, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be easier to access for Australians under the age of 40 following a shock announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The change to the rollout, which came after Monday night’s national cabinet meeting, is intended to speed up vaccinations in the face of several outbreaks linked to the highly contagious Delta strain.
Here’s what we know so far.
Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
Anyone in Australia over the age of 18 can ask for AstraZeneca.
However, the vaccine is still preferred for people over 60, based on the latest medical advice by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
On Monday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarified that although AstraZeneca remained the preferred jab for over-60s, that didn’t mean people under 60 were necessarily banned from getting it.
“If you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP,” Mr Morrison said.
People under the age of 40 who are not in a priority group are not technically eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine under the Commonwealth rollout, according to the federal Health Department.
However, Australians under 40 should be able to book an AstraZeneca vaccination within days.
Head of the COVID-19 vaccine task force, Lieutenant General John Frewen, told Nine they were working to update the booking system to allow younger Australians to make an appointment.
Talk to your GP
Dr Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, said people should speak to their GP about the risks of AstraZeneca.
“Our recommendation is still for people to follow the ATAGI advice and have the recommended vaccine when it’s available,” he said.
Pfizer remains the recommended vaccine for Australians under the age of 60.
“Any Australians under the age of 60 wanting to have AstraZeneca, talk to your GP who can advise on the risks as outlined by ATAGI and in relation to their own health,” Dr Khorshid said.
“GPs are in the best position to assess risk and talk to patients about vaccines. The government’s latest announcement today to fund longer consultations for under-50s will be helpful in this regard.”
GPs can’t be held liable for any side effects
A crucial change announced on Monday night was the introduction of a new no-fault indemnity scheme for GPs.
It means GPs cannot be sued by a patient under 60 who has an adverse reaction to AstraZeneca.
It also means a person who has an adverse reaction is entitled to compensation from the federal government without having to establish anyone was at fault.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to an extremely rare blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
TTS is more likely to occur with the first dose of AstraZeneca, however the rate of clotting incidents is extremely low (for under-50s, there have been 3.1 cases of clotting per 100,000 first doses).
Symptoms include a severe and persistent headache, abdominal pain, blurred vision, and leg pain or swelling.
They can appear four to 30 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a peak time of six to 14 days.
If you visit your GP with any of these symptoms, you will get a blood test known as a platelet count, and will likely be prescribed blood-thinning medication.