Vaccine rollout in disarray as concerns mount over AstraZeneca

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s early boast that all Australians will have had their first Covid vaccine by October has been all but ruled out after mounting AstraZeneca blood clot concerns.

Australia had put all its vaccine eggs in the AstraZeneca basket, but after a number of incidents of a rare bloodclotting condition linked to the vaccine both in Australia and overseas, Morrison has now made an abrupt u-turn saying the vaccine will no longer be recommended to be given to under-50s.

The government has now named the Pfizer vaccine as the preferred option for the under-50s.

This is a major blow to the national vaccine rollout which is already way behind earlier forecasts, with on one million vaccines administered by early March, some three million shy of the original target.

Morrison has been vague about how the change in vaccine strategy will affect timelines.

“I think we have to take the time to assess the implications for the program,” he said.

“And when we’ve done that, well, we may be able to form a view. But I don’t think anyone should expect that any time soon. This will take some time to work through the implications.”

One of the obstacles the government now faces is unlike the AstraZeneca vaccine which could be manufactured locally, the Pfizer vaccine has to be imported, and to date the government has only ordered enough for 10 million Australians.

“We are confident at some stage in the near future we will get an improved supply of Pfizer,” said Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy.

The implications for the business events sector are not good, with hopes that the vaccine would usher in a return to fairly normal conditions. But with no timeline on vaccinating the entire population, an end to snap border closures and an opening of international borders are once again receding into the horizon.