Government asks medical regulators to look into AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clot link.
Europe's drug regulator has found a possible link between AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who had received the shot, prompting the Australian federal government to ask national regulators to urgently look into the finding.
"The government has asked [the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] and the [Therapeutic Goods Administration] to immediately consider and advise on the latest vaccination findings out of Europe and the UK," a government spokesperson said.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Thursday morning he would be able to provide advice to National Cabinet tomorrow, after ATAGI and TGA meetings today.
"We certainly place safety above all else, and as we've done throughout the pandemic, the government will be guided by that health advice," he said.
He stressed blood clots were "extremely rare".
"Like with any treatment, vaccine, medicine we have to look at the risk and benefit and we do know that the risk of vaccination against this very serious disease of COVID is a really important component of our control," Professor Kelly said.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective and very safe for most people."
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said: "One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin."
The findings come as a major hurdle in the global fight against the pandemic and a shift in the stance of the regulator, which had last week backed the vaccine and said there was no increased risk of blood clots in general from the shot.
It is also a blow to AstraZeneca, which was a frontrunner in the race for making an effective vaccine against COVID-19 ever since it began working with the University of Oxford.
The EMA's safety committee, which was assessing the vaccine, has requested for more studies and changes to the current ones to get more information.
Australia to mark one million jabs within days.
One million Australians will have received their coronavirus vaccines within days and the national figure is expected to double soon afterwards.
More than 920,000 people have now been given coronavirus jabs.
The number is still a very long way behind the government's initial targets, but signs of improvement are starting to show.
Health Minister Greg Hunt expects to reach the one million mark "very soon" as people return to general practices after the Easter break and larger vaccination clinics scale up their operations.
He expects the daily injection rate to ramp up rapidly as more doctors join the rollout, soon soaring past two million jabs.