Scott Morrison has sought to reassure Australians that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is safe after some European countries suspended their rollouts of the jab during an investigation into cases of blood clots.
The prime minister said he had discussed the reports with health department secretary, Brendan Murphy, who did not believe there was a need to change Australia’s classification of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Morrison also said Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration considered data from overseas rollouts as well as conducting its own testing of the vaccine batches being distributed across Australia.
Overnight, Denmark, Norway and Iceland announced they were temporarily halting all AstraZeneca vaccinations to investigate the cases, after the European Medicines Agency said 30 cases of “thromboembolic events” or blood clots had been reported among 5 million people who had received the jab in Europe so far.
Italy followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning inoculations with one particular batch of 1m doses that was sent to 17 countries.
Denmark’s national health agency said it was suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations for two weeks because a 60-year-old woman who was given a shot from the same batch had formed a blood clot and subsequently died.
Morrison, who is acting health minister while Greg Hunt recovers from cellulitis, also attempted to quash criticism of his government’s slower than anticipated vaccine rollout after a concession from Murphy on Thursday that some Australians may only have had one dose by the October target that the government set for full vaccination.
“This is not news,” Morrison said in Sydney on Friday morning, insisting that receiving just the first of two jabs could be considered vaccinating a population as it achieved the immediate protective benefits.
But he acknowledged that he expected just 150,000 vaccine doses to be administered by the end of this week, and that the government had not been able to secure as much vaccine supply as it had hoped to by now.
When asked if he was worried by concerns in Europe that the AstraZeneca vaccine had caused blood clots among a handful of millions of recipients, Morrison said: “I trust our Therapeutic Goods Administration and the advice that they give me.
“All the data from all of the places that we have relationships with, which obviously includes Europe, is being fed into the TGA, and that data is examined and that’s what informs the decisions that we take here in Australia.
“Remember, the batches that we distribute across Australia, those batches are tested here in Australia. They’re tested here by the TGA, I was watching them doing it just earlier this week, and so we have a very robust process for examining that.”
Morrison said Australia had benefited from having a “front-row seat” on the vaccine rollout in countries which have had an “urgent crisis situation” and had to speed up their distribution.
“The learnings from that have been taken into account as we’ve been rolling out the vaccine safely here in Australia,” Morrison said.