The director of a Wagga vaccine hub has backed the Department of Health's change to the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout, but warned GPs could have a tough time reassuring patients.
In a press conference yesterday, Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed AstraZeneca is no longer recommended for people aged 50 to 59 and will be reserved for over-60s.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advised the change after recording 12 new cases of blood clots, most within the 50 to 59 age bracket.
Mr Hunt described the risk as "very, very rare" but "dangerous". Pfizer is now the recommended vaccine for anyone under 60.
Dr Ayman Shenouda, who runs the mass vaccination hub at Glenrock Country Practice, backed the decision, but said the change will "definitely" put pressure on local GPs.
"This is going to put an extra load on doctors who will have to work hard to reassure people," he said. "The government will have to support GPs and other doctors in doing so. I can see hesitancy is still an issue in patients. The Victorian scare pushed people to get vaccinated but since then we've had a big decline."
In a statement, ATAGI confirmed anyone who has had their first dose of AstraZeneca with no reaction should receive their second, a stance the Wagga GP reiterated.
"If you were going to get clots you would have had it with the first jab," Dr Shenouda said. "There is significantly less risk in the second jab and it's already incredibly low with the first."
Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said he hoped the change might drive vaccinations in the 50 to 59 age group.
"It is also important to remember that there are a number of people in that 50 to 59-year-old age group who have been very hesitant [about the AstraZeneca vaccine]," Dr Murphy said.
"This now gives some of those 2.1 million people an opportunity to get vaccinated earlier. So it is just a balance of those risks."
The Glenrock clinic is one of 70 federally funded vaccine hubs across the country slated to receive Pfizer doses by July 5 and will begin offering the vaccines to the over-50 age group from then.
Dr Shenouda encouraged anyone with concerns to reach out.
"My advice to people who are nervous about the vaccine is talk to your doctor or call us up before you book," he said. "No one will force a vaccine on you, you just need to have the discussion and get the facts from the right people."
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