Man, 44, and woman, 48, die after AstraZeneca vaccine

A Victorian woman under the recommended age to get the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has died from its extremely rare blood clotting condition.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says it was notified this week the 48-year-old woman suffered confirmed thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) and died after receiving her first dose.

A 44-year-old man from Tasmania suffered the same fate. He is the youngest Australian to die from TTS stemming the AstraZeneca jab.

"We extend our sincere condolences to their families and loved ones," the national medicines regulator wrote in its weekly safety report on Thursday.

The Victorian woman's case was reported as probable TTS last week.

A person receives an AstraZeneca injection. Source: AP
Therapeutic Goods Administration says the 48-year-old suffered confirmed thrombocytopenia syndrome and died after receiving her first dose. Source: AP

The two new confirmed TTS deaths take the total to five in Australia from more than 6.1 million AstraZeneca doses. They include four women, two aged 48, and the others aged 52 and 72. The other death is the 44-year-old man.

All are linked to people having their first dose.

While acknowledging the deaths were tragic, Victoria's acting chief health officer Ben Cowie emphasised the vaccine's low mortality rate.

"It is one in a million," he told reporters on Thursday.

"One is too many, but what we are trying to achieve is a balance between that rare but serious side effect and the absolute fundamental good that is vaccinating our community against Covid-19."

Pfizer remains the recommended Covid-19 vaccine for Australians under 60 due to the extremely rare AstraZeneca-related blood clotting condition being more prevalent in younger people.

But Australian adults under 60 can still access the AstraZeneca shot if they discuss the decision with their GP and give informed consent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been ramping up pressure on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to rethink that advice, arguing the outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and South Australia change the equation.

People line up to receive a coronavirus vaccination at the Rocklea Showgrounds in Brisbane. Source: AAP
Almost 40,000 people under 40 have received the AstraZeneca jab since the prime minister encouraged people to talk with a doctor about taking it. Source: AAP

Professor Cowie would not be drawn on the prime minister's comments but said all vaccines came with inherent risks and benefits.

"This is a program which is saving thousands and thousands of lives as we go forward, and giving us back the freedoms that we aspire to as a community," he said.

"All vaccines, all medicines, any activity that we undertake in the health space, there are side effects.

"There can be negative consequences that have to be balanced out with a fundamentally positive life-saving intervention that is this vaccination program."

But Victoria's Health Minister Martin Foley accused Mr Morrison of trying to shift blame for Australia's low vaccine rates onto the expert panel.

"Rather than blame shift, work with ATAGI ... if there's a problem, work through with them, don't blame them for doing their job," he said.

Just under 15 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated, with Victoria administering more than 1.45 million doses at state-run sites in the first five months of the rollout.

PM says 'sorry' for Covid vaccine rollout

On Thursday, Scott Morrison apologised for the country's heavily-criticised vaccine rollout not meeting its targets but insisted some of the issues were out of his control.

The prime minister had repeatedly refused to say sorry for the bungled immunisation program which is lagging behind most of the developed world.

Mr Morrison said some things were within the government's control but others weren't.

"I'm sorry that we haven't been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year - of course I am," he told reporters in Canberra.

"But what's more important is that we're totally focused on ensuring that we've been turning this around."

A record 184,000 doses were administered in the past 24 hours, but just over 14 per cent of the population aged over 16 is fully vaccinated.

The rollout started almost five months ago but the government has been forced to dump multiple targets it set for itself, including completing the program by October.

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