MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia will continue its inoculation program with AstraZeneca PLC, health officials said on Saturday, after a case of blood clotting raised concerns about the safety of the vaccine.
A 44-year-old man was admitted to a Melbourne hospital with clotting, days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, suffering a severe thrombosis, a condition that prevents normal blood flow through the circulatory system.
The Therapeutic Products Administration (TGA) regulator and a panel, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI), met on Friday night and early Saturday to discuss further advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“ATAGI or the TGA have not advised us at this time to stop the launch of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia,” Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said in a televised briefing on Saturday afternoon.
Kidd said, however, that the blood clotting case is “probably” related to the vaccine.
“The risks of serious side effects are still very low, but safety is paramount and that is why TAGI and TGA continue to do due diligence on this case,” Kidd said, adding that more announcements will follow next week.
On Thursday, Britain identified 30 cases of rare blood clots after the use of the vaccine. Several nations, including Canada, France, Germany, and Spain, limited its use after similar reports.
Possible complications with the launch of the AstraZeneca vaccine could further slow down the already delayed inoculation campaign in Australia.
Australia launched mass vaccines for its 25 million people in February, with most expected to receive the vaccine from the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca, as CSL Ltd. is producing 50 million doses domestically.
However, the country has struggled to implement the program, falling short of the March target at roughly 3.3 million doses, as states and the federal government argued over blame.
The issues follow a year of significant success in curbing the virus, with instant lockdowns, border closures and rapid tracking limiting coronavirus infections to just under 29,300 infections, with 909 deaths from COVID-19.
On Saturday, the state of Queensland, the epicenter of the most recent small coronavirus outbreak, registered a new infection, health officials said, but the risks to the public were minimal as the victim had been isolated for days.
(Global Vaccination Tracker: here)
(Interactive graphical tracking of the global spread of the coronavirus: here)
Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Edited by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard