The after-effects of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments during a press conference at the start of the week are being felt by doctors across the country, who have noted heightened confusion around the vaccine rollout and a surge in AstraZeneca appointments.
Mr Morrison said anyone under the age of 40 was welcome to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine under the advice of their doctor if they wished.
His comments were in contrast to advice from The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that the jab was only recommended for those over the age of 60 due to extremely rare but serious blood clots.
The PM's declaration came as a shock for local GPs, with one of NSW’s top doctors admitting she was caught off guard by his “unexpected” announcement.
Doctors inundated with calls about AstraZeneca
Australian Medical Association NSW President Dr Danielle McMullen said Mr Morrison’s comments caused the phones to “ring off the hook” with an “astronomical” amount of calls from confused patients, and others who were keen to schedule an appointment.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement was unexpected by everyone it seems,” Dr McMullen told Yahoo News Australia.
“It has generated more confusion and really the last thing we need at the moment is more confusion about the vaccine rollout.
“On the flip side, the positive is that it’s shown that there are a whole lot of young people that are really keen to get vaccinated, and hopefully this reminds people over 60 that there’s a bunch of people under 60 who would happily have the vaccine.”
Dr McMullen described the handling of the rollout as a “rollercoaster”, and said it’s essential communications from the federal government are clearer.
“It’s really important that we get that communication and messaging right so that everyone’s on the same page,” she said.
“People have been very confused about this rollout for some time and certainly Monday night the level of confusion increased a notch.”
She stressed that it was important to follow the advice from ATAGI.
“They’ve done the risk analysis and come to the conclusion that for under 60s, Pfizer is preferred because the risk of clotting is higher.”
She added people under 60 who discuss the AstraZeneca jab with their doctor and are willing to accept the risk of clotting complications are welcome to receive the jab if they wish.
More than 2600 Australians under 40 have received AstraZeneca since the prime minister's comments on Monday night.
The federal government has given legal protection to doctors who administer AstraZeneca to younger people.
State sets vaccine record — but new initiative “not enough”
In the 24-hour period to Friday, a new record was set for the daily number of jabs administered by NSW Health, with 21,289 people vaccinated.
The record comes as pharmacies plead to be more involved in NSW's vaccine rollout, having been enlisted on Thursday to administer jabs.
A trial involving 22 pharmacies in regional NSW administering AstraZeneca from mid-July is not enough, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia said.
The limited trial "still misses the mark", NSW branch president Chelsea Felkai said, and the full pharmacist workforce should be deployed.
"We desperately need a patient-centric approach that puts the community first, but it is apparent that the NSW government's approach to the rollout does not support this," Ms Felkai said in a statement.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org