SYDNEY — All Australians over 50 have access to coronavirus vaccines as health experts move to reassure people the AstraZeneca jab is safe.
From May 3, people in that age group can receive shots at general practice respiratory clinics and state and territory vaccination hubs.
On May 17, the vaccination program will be expanded to General Practitioner surgeries, with up to 15.8 million doses available during this phase of the rollout.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said regulators and experts were continuing to look carefully at every report of adverse reactions, including blood clots.
“We were requested to provide advice (to the Health Minister) on May 3 concerning the Biosecurity Act and how that might be used to continue to keep Australians safe, which is ultimately the reason why that Act exists. There is a particular section under the Act which requires that the Minister before he makes a decision, is provided with advice in relation to several matters.”
“But the crucial ones are that any decision that is made- that is made under the emergency powers are proportionate, is the least restrictive thing that could be done to get to a particular outcome and is only introduced for the period where that is absolutely necessary. And so, we provided advice to answer all of those questions,” said Kelly.
“My clear message is that the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risk. People are seeing what’s happening in India,” he said on May 3.
Kelly said the rollout’s objective was to keep Australia safe in navigating the path out of the pandemic.
“An outbreak could happen in Australia so, please do not hesitate,” he said.
“This is not a compulsory vaccine, so people have their choice, but waiting until the end of the year is not advised.”
National Covid-19 Commissioner Jane Halton said Australia needed to catch up on its vaccination rollout to avoid a significant outbreak.
“We need to get on with this,” she said.
“The only way that we get out of the pandemic is that we either get the disease or get vaccinated.”
Kelly was coy about reports Australia has been in talks with French biotech giant Valneva about its coronavirus vaccine.
“We’re continuing to have discussions with a range of companies around the world about purchasing any of those,” he said.
Labour has criticized the government for its narrow vaccine portfolio, with AstraZeneca and Pfizer the only ones in use. At the same time, the unapproved Novavax is expected to join the rollout later in the year.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ojaswin Kathuria)
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