Australia on Thursday joined a growing number of countries halting the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for younger people over fears it can cause serious blood clots.
Several European countries have already suspended the use of the vaccine for younger populations after it was earlier banned outright in several places over blood clot scares.
Officials said the AstraZeneca shot should no longer be given to people under the age of 50, unless they had already received a first dose without any ill effects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the decision shortly after the government’s medical advisory board decided to follow European and other countries in limiting the use of AstraZeneca.
Australia has been one of the world’s most successful countries in containing the spread of Covid-19, with fewer than 30,000 cases and 1,000 deaths for a population of 25 million and virtually no ongoing community transmission.
But it has fallen far behind the government’s own schedule for vaccinating people against the disease, with just a million doses administered by Thursday when it had pledged to give four million doses by last week.
Australia had counted on using AstraZeneca to inoculate most of its population, first using doses imported from Europe and then locally manufactured vaccines.
But vaccine shortages in Europe led to delays in AstraZeneca shipments, while planned deliveries of alternative vaccines like Pfizer/BioNTech and Novavax have not yet ramped up.
So far, there has been only one case of blood clotting in a patient who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia.
Morrison and Murphy said they were confident there would be enough doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Novavax vaccines to complete the inoculation of Australian adults.