While Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened up the highly-controversial AstraZeneca vaccine to all ages on Monday, a growing number of young Australians say they've managed to acquire appointments for the much more desirable Pfizer vaccine.
An alarming surge in locally acquired Covid-19 cases of the highly-infectious Delta variant across the nation has prompted the locking down of four state or territory capitals and in turn, thrusted the nation's botched vaccine rollout under the spotlight once again.
Mr Morrison's decision drew strong condemnation from the Queensland government on Wednesday, particularly Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young who urged those under 40 in her state not to take the jab.
After all, his snap decision blindsided the Australian Medical Association and contradicted official advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
It's such damning public remarks that fuels many people's scepticism over the AstraZeneca jab.
Even though the chances of severe blood-clotting complications are as low as three in 100,000, there is no denying the Pfizer jab has become the vaccine of choice for Australians – even for some hesitant older Australians who are yet to come forward for the AstraZeneca jab.
Even before Mr Morrison's announcement on Monday, frustrated young Australians were doing what they could to ensure they get vaccinated as quickly as possible in a bid to open the country back up.
Young Australians go in search of Pfizer – and with relative ease
With the rollout continuing to move at a snail's pace in comparison to other first world countries and little information on when under 40s would enter the vaccination picture, more and more people from the age group have been finding ways to acquire appointments.
Yahoo News Australia has been made aware of people aged between 16 and 40 being able to book Pfizer appointments via an application process on the NSW Health website.
On the online application form, they selected options stating they were general public, in the age group, were not essential workers and did not have underlying health issues and were still granted appointments.
Under 40s acquire vaccine through NSW Health link
One female resident, 34, from Bondi who was sent the application link by a friend before Mr Morrison's announcement, told Yahoo News Australia it was "a relief to finally have a date in the diary".
She said she was "not fussed" about which vaccine she was assigned, but simply wanted to ensure she was doing her bit to help. She was assigned a first-jab appointment for the Pfizer jab at the Liverpool CoVax clinic in late August.
Another woman, 29, used the same system, and has already received the Pfizer jab at St George Hospital in Kogarah without complication.
When a Yahoo News Australia staff member attempted to complete an application via a link shared to them it was successful, however a later attempt indicated there was no availability and was instructed to try again later for further openings.
NSW Health told Yahoo News Australia people in the age category had not been approved to book an appointment for the Pfizer jab and attempts to do so would not be successful.
It said the state is following guidance from the federal government on when to allow younger Australians to book appointments.
However links designated for professions who are prioritised for the vaccine are increasingly being shared among circles of friends and being used to successfully secure a Pfizer jab.
Woman walks into hospital, gets Pfizer jab two days later
In Queensland, one 31-year-old woman in the Moreton Bay region told Yahoo News Australia she was able to walk into her nearest hospital and ask for a jab, before being granted a Pfizer appointment.
She received her jab two days later on Wednesday without complication.
She was not asked about her eligibility.
Why Pfizer is made available to older age groups first
Australia initially only acquired 10 million doses of Pfizer before scrambling to acquire more after the University of Queensland trials of its vaccine were abandoned and the emergence of blood-clotting side-effects in the AstraZeneca. While the federal government has now acquired 40 million doses, there remains highly-publicised supply issues.
When pressed on whether the Pfizer jab would be made available to younger residents on Tuesday, NSW's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was vital to remember the objectives of the vaccine rollout at this stage.
Amid a shortage of Pfizer jabs, vaccinating the most vulnerable and vaccinating those in essential roles and workers who come into contact with returned travellers remained the focus, she pointed out.
"If we divert vaccines from an older age group to a younger age group, we're not going to have that much of an impact on transmission because not enough of them will be vaccinated," Dr Chant said, noting transmission would still occur even when 80 per cent of the population was vaccinated.
Yet her later remarks only solidified the ongoing confusion felt within young Australians when she was asked about under 40s being told by facilities they could get Pfizer appointments regardless of their eligibility.
"What I would ask the community to do is, there are going to be increasing opportunities to get vaccinated and as you become eligible for either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca, take up those opportunities," she told reporters.
Vaccine expert calls for clarity over vaccine rollout
Flinders University vaccine expert Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said it was time for the state and federal governments to improve the messaging to the public and it was vital to provide more clarity.
"All my patients express total confusion regarding the government's messaging on vaccines, and the relative merits and availability of the two vaccine candidates, and whether or not they should be having them," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Professor Petrovsky said it should be made clear to young Australians the exact risks they are facing when they take the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"A one in 25,000 risk might sound remote, but it is still a very significant risk that should not be downplayed.
"Rather than running an expensive, overly simplistic advertising campaign that the public can see straight through, the government should be focussed on running comprehensive and honest education campaigns that fully discuss the potential downsides and uncertainties of each vaccine and their availability and suitability."
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