Boost for AstraZeneca jab rollout
CSL's chief scientist has received his first dose of a locally made AstraZeneca vaccine in a strong show of confidence for the COVID-19 jab.
CSL chief scientific officer Dr Andrew Nash received his first dose from Dr Tony Bartone, the past president of the Australian Medical Association Victorian branch, on Friday morning ahead of the ramping up of the phase 2a rollout.
From Monday, Australians aged 50 years and older will be able to receive the AstraZeneca jab at a participating general practice as the federal government picks up the pace to try to get the adult population vaccinated by Christmas.
While Dr Nash did not answer questions on Friday regarding the vaccine's blood clotting issues, he said the company was pleased to play its part in protecting Australians.
"All of the vaccines are very effective. We manufacture the AZ vaccine, which is just one of a number that are available," he said.
"They all play a very important role in protecting the community, so we're happy."
Dr Nash said he felt great after his dose was administered and the procedure was pretty painless.
"It's been a remarkable performance by our staff to really get to this stage where, from scratch, we've been able to manufacture and distribute vaccines for AstraZeneca and the government to vaccinate the number of people that we have," he said.
At least 5.5 million doses of the locally made AstraZeneca vaccine will have been released to the government by the end of this week, with 1 million now being produced each week.
CSL hopes showing Dr Nash, and its COVID-19 vaccines program director, Dr Bev Menner, receiving their jab will act as a resounding endorsement of the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The TGA maintains the reporting rates of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in Australia were "consistent with what is being seen internationally".
The TGA defines TTS as "a very rare event" involving "serious blood clots" with a low blood platelet count - less cells that fight against clots.
About 1.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered so far in Australia.
Dr Bartone said anyone with concerns about their COVID-19 vaccination should speak with their GP.
"In my practice, in many GP practices across the country, the apprehension, the concerns, maybe even fears, are suitably addressed in a one-to-one fashion, and the vast majority of those people then proceed and go ahead with the vaccination," he said.
"Where you're dealing with a mass vaccination set-up, and it's a walk-up … that's where we've got to increase the amount of communication, information and material available to them, to ensure they can make an appropriate decision."
Dr Bartone said all medications had side effects.
"The extremely rare side effects have had an enormous amount of publicity and that has jolted the confidence of some Australians, but my message to everybody is, this is an effective, safe way to ensure COVID-19 becomes no more than a common cold," he said.
Dr Bartone said supply had been the limiting factor in the government's vaccination rollout so far, but come Monday he expects it to "significantly rise" next week and beyond, with the announcement of up to 400,000 extra doses being supplied to GPs each week.
Originally published as Boost for AstraZeneca jab rollout