Australia to proceed with AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine despite pause in Europe

The majority of Australia's 25 million people will be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia has no plans to halt the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday (March 16), as several European countries paused administering the vaccine after reports of possible serious side-effects.

Frydenberg said the European medicines regulator and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective and safe to use.

"So we will continue to proceed with the vaccine roll-out of AstraZeneca," Frydenberg told Sky News.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus joined several other European nations in temporarily suspending vaccinations with AstraZeneca shots after isolated reports of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet count.

WHO said there have been no documented deaths linked to Covid-19 vaccines and that people should not panic.

The majority of Australia's 25 million people will be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and authorities have secured nearly 54 million doses, with 50 million to be produced locally from the end of March.

Australian began its nationwide immunisation drive last month, much later than many other countries, and began first vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine last week.

The government plans to ramp up national vaccinations to 1 million a week by early April when the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine becomes available.

Authorities aim to have administered a first dose of vaccines to the entire country by October.

Australia has reported just over 29,100 Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths, with border closures and speedy tracking systems helping keep numbers relatively low compared with other developed countries.

Reuters has sought comments from Australia's health minister on the vaccine roll-out.

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