SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia has narrowed the range of people who will receive the AstraZeneca Plc Covid-19 vaccine due to concern about blood clots, in a move that could slow the nation's already tardy rollout.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group made the recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to those aged 60 and above, up from the previous range of those 50 and above.
The Pfizer Inc vaccine will now be the preferred vaccine for those under 60, said Australia's health minister Greg Hunt in a press conference Thursday (June 17).
The decision comes after the nation has recorded at least 35 confirmed cases of thrombocytopenia syndrome following administration of the jab, including two deaths.
The decision could increase vaccination hesitancy in the nation, which in turn may lead to prolonged border closures.
Australia's strategy of eliminating Covid-19 cases within the community has come under increasing pressure due to leaks of the virus into the community from hotels used to quarantine Australians returning from overseas, triggering localised lockdowns.
Melbourne, the second-most populous city with more than 5 million people, exited a two-week lockdown earlier this month.
On Thursday, New South Wales state recorded four new cases of the Delta strain within Sydney's local community with the past 24 hours, raising concerns other states and territories may implement a new round of travel restrictions.
Only about 6.1 million out of 26 million Australians have had at least one jab. Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government has abandoned its original October target to inoculate the population.
Asked in a Sky News interview broadcast Thursday whether Australians were on track to reach full vaccination by the end of the year, Mr Morrison replied: "I would certainly hope so, but there are shocks that come along the way."