Australia’s top advisory body on immunization now says anyone aged 18 and above in more excellent Sydney should “strongly consider” getting inoculated with any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca.
On Saturday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) released updated recommendations on the Covid-19 vaccine after NSW recorded 163 new local cases – its highest number of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd elaborated on the updated advice at a press conference on Saturday afternoon, saying it came on the back of “emerging data” about the increasing severity of the highly contagious Delta strain.
“It is becoming apparent that the Delta variant may be more severe than the original strain of the virus,” he told reporters.
Professor Kidd said more younger people were hospitalized with the Covid-19 Delta strain than in past outbreaks.
“The outbreak in NSW continues to grow, and the risk of disease, particularly in the most seriously affected regions in the greater Sydney area, is likely to continue to be significant over coming days,” he said.
“The original advice from ATAGI was that in a large outbreak, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine are more significant than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.
“That advice has not changed. I urge everyone in Australia aged over 60 years of age to get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine now – Do not wait.”
More than 75 percent of people in Australia aged over 70 had received the vaccine, but professor Kidd implored, “we need to protect everyone”.
“The advice from ATAGI is all individuals aged 18 years and above in greater Sydney including adults under 60 years of age should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca,” he said.
“This is based on the increasing risk of Covid-19 and ongoing constraints of supply of the Pfizer vaccine.”
He said residents in areas where outbreaks were occurring could receive the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine four to eight weeks after the first dose, rather than the usual 12 weeks.
“Maximum protection requires two doses of either vaccine, but even a single dose provides substantial protection by more than 70 percent against hospitalization,” professor Kidd said.
“If you have received a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and you get infected with Covid-19, the vaccine partially reduces the risk of transmission to other people by about half, and therefore will also benefit your close contacts and the wider community.”
Professor Kidd also said the Commonwealth would increase the emergency allocation to NSW for 50,000 extra doses of Pfizer this week.
“The Commonwealth will increase the emergency allocation to NSW of additional doses of Pfizer from 150,000 to 200,000 doses this week,” he said. He said every additional delivery was another person with “extra protection” against Covid-19.