The chief medical officer says there is no need to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout, after two government-aligned MPs called for a pause.
There is “no evidence” the AstraZeneca is linked to blood clotting despite several European countries halting its use over the fear, the nation’s chief medical officer says.
Germany, Italy, France and Spain are among a host of countries to suspend their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts while they investigate reports of blood clotting in patients who have been vaccinated.
But chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Tuesday “unusual events” were expected in any major vaccine rollout.
He said blood clots were “fairly common”, with 17,000 reported in Australian annually, but said authorities would “take it seriously … (and) investigate”.
“We do expect to see blood clots at the time when we when vaccinations are given,” he said.
“But this does not mean that an event that happens after vaccination has been given is indeed due to that vaccine.
“From my perspective, I do not see that there is any specific link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots, and I’m not alone in that opinion.
He said 17 million AstraZeneca doses had been administered across Europe and the UK without clear evidence linking it to blood-clotting.
“That’s important … there has been no solid evidence that blood clots, or any other major event, has occurred in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government continued to “clearly and unequivocally” support the AstraZeneca rollout.
“The TGA does not have any evidence of a biologically plausible relationship that could suggest a cause and effect relationship during vaccination and blood clots,” he told parliament.
It comes after independent MP Craig Kelly joined calls for the government to halt its AstraZeneca rollout.
Mr Kelly blindsided Scott Morrison by quitting the Liberal Party in February, after the prime minister attempted to rein in the backbencher’s promotion of COVID-19 treatments that contradicted official health advice.
Mr Kelly said it was “quite possible” the vaccine would prove safe, but said Australia should learn lessons from overseas.
He said the Pfizer vaccine rollout should continue.
“We are in a completely different situation to these countries overseas,” he said.
“We can afford surely pause for a week. Let’s review the other data (and) we can continue the vaccine program after that if these other countries say it’s OK.
“Surely it’s the precautionary principle must apply.”
The European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication the cases were caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine, and Australian health authorities also maintain the vaccine is safe.
But Senator Canavan told Sky News on Tuesday the “serious concerns” had to be heeded.
“I don’t think all the capitals of Europe have been overtaken by anti-vaccine zealots. There is obviously legitimate concerns here,” he said.
“Given that we are a country where there is not really an imminent threat of coronavirus, I just don’t see how the risk of the vaccine outweighs, or is better than, suspending right now.”
Senator Canavan said the health advice from Europe was relevant to Australia.
“I just don’t think we can close our eyes to this evidence,” he said.
“The end goal has to be the health and safety of Australians.”
Senior members of the government, including Mr Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, were briefed on Monday night on the vaccine rollout.
Mr Frydenberg reiterated on Tuesday that the World Health Organisation had said there was “no evidence” the AstraZeneca vaccine had caused the blood clots.
“In the case of the United Kingdom, they have already distributed more than 12 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and they haven’t seen those trends or patterns across their community,” he told ABC RN.
“It is still the government’s intention to roll it out, as we’ve said.”