Vaccine advice changes again as young accused of 'gaming' the system

As the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak continues to spiral out of control, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), has been forced to change its vaccine advice for those under 60.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that more people should consult with a GP and consider the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of the outbreak and limited access to Pfizer vaccines.

The new advice from ATAGI is in line with those recommendations.

At the time, GPs and the Australian Medical Association criticised the announcement as it did not match the formal advice from ATAGI, but that situation has now changed, which could lead to more people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Read more: Australia lags behind in race to secure Pfizer doses

The official ATAGI advice also contains changes during an outbreak setting on the recommended interval between the two AstraZeneca jabs, suggesting they should be taken closer together in emergency situations.

According to the ATAGI recommendations, in the context of a COVID-19 outbreak where the Pfizer supply is constrained, adults younger than 60 should reassess the benefits to themselves and their contacts of using the AstraZeneca vaccine, versus the rare risk of a serious side-effect.

“While the recommended interval between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca is between four and 12 weeks, in outbreak situations an interval of between four and eight weeks is preferred,” the ATAGI advice states.

Read more: Business figures turned to Rudd to bring forward Pfizer vaccine

People in an outbreak situation, who received their first dose of AstraZeneca more than four weeks ago, should contact their vaccine provider to arrange their second dose as soon as possible.

In non-outbreak settings, the preferred interval between doses of AstraZeneca vaccine remains at 12 weeks.

The ATAGI recommendations for Pfizer remain unchanged in outbreak settings.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said that some people should consider getting their second dose of AstraZeneca as soon as four weeks after the first in exceptional standards.

Read more: Most older Aussies need to be vaccinated before nation reopens

“I have said openly that if you have had your AstraZeneca shots, over four weeks ago, contact your GP and talk about bringing the second dose forward from the 12-week mark to around six to eight weeks,” Dr Chant said.

“But if you are in certain areas where you know you are in even greater risk, as low as four weeks is acceptable.

“Our guidance is six to eight weeks but in certain circumstances your doctor might want to do it as low as four weeks.”

In explaining the reason for the decision, ATAGI said that the benefits of using the AstraZeneca vaccine in outbreak settings were increased compared with non-outbreak settings.

“When the virus is spreading in the community it is critical that as many people as possible are vaccinated as quickly as possible,” the ATAGI statement explained.

It also reinforced that for those aged 60 or older, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweighed the risks in both outbreak and non-outbreak situations.

While access to the Pfizer vaccine is still restricted, The New Daily has reported that young Sydneysiders have found a way to ‘game’ the system and get access to Pfizer shots even when they are not eligible.

Across social media, young people are sharing a legitimate link on the NSW Health website to book Pfizer vaccinations, despite not meeting the eligibility criteria.

The link is legitimate, but is difficult to access from the front of the website and it doesn’t require people to lie on their registration forms to be given access to the Pfizer vaccine.

Are you still waiting on your second AstraZeneca jab? Do you live in Sydney? Are you thinking of bringing forward your second jab in response to the worsening situation in Sydney? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben