Australia shelves plans to buy Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine

Australia is moving away from procuring vaccines under review over blood clots.
Australia is moving away from procuring vaccines under review over blood clots.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia has no current plans to add Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine to its immunisation drive, the authorities said on Tuesday (April 13), as it moves away from procuring vaccines under review over blood clots.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and AstraZeneca anti-Covid vaccine doses use an adenovirus, a harmless class of common-cold viruses, to introduce coronavirus proteins into cells in the body and trigger an immune response.

But both vaccines are under review by Europe's drug regulator after it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult vaccine recipients, although it said the advantages still outweighed the risks.

"The government does not intend to purchase any further adenovirus vaccines at this time," a Health Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Australia on Sunday abandoned its goal to vaccinate its near 26 million population by the end of this year after recommending under-50s should not be given the AstraZeneca doses, throwing its vaccination programme into disarray.

The policy change prompted the authorities last week to double an earlier Pfizer order to 40 million shots, which would be delivered by the end of the year.

The country's immunisation drive was heavily reliant on the AstraZeneca vaccine, with plans to manufacture 50 million doses in the country.

Australia has been reporting zero or low single-digit cases for most days this year, helping the authorities to ease restrictions and putting the economy into a faster recovery trajectory.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the setbacks in the vaccine roll-out should not "derail momentum in our economic recovery".

"With the successful suppression of the virus and substantial reopening of the economy both household and business confidence are now higher than before the pandemic," Mr Frydenberg said in an e-mailed statement.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other countries due to low Covid-19 case numbers, recording just over 29,400 infections since the pandemic began.

It reported its first death of the year on Tuesday after an 80-year old man died after contracting the virus overseas, taking the total tally to 910 deaths.