On 8 April the federal government heeded the advice of its independent health expert advisory body to avoid giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to under-50s, amid fears of a potential but extremely rare link to unusual blood clots.
The advice recommended adults aged under 50 receive the Pfizer vaccine as a “preferred choice” over AstraZeneca, but said it was up to individuals affected to decide whether to go ahead with an AstraZeneca vaccination in discussion with their doctor.
Despite the advice, some patients say their GP clinics are cancelling AstraZeneca vaccination appointments without even asking if they are still willing to receive the vaccine, while others say they have no idea when they will be offered an alternative.
Here’s what Guardian Australia heard from those currently eligible for a vaccine as part of phase 1a and 1b of the rollout.
I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home father of two. I have ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine. I also have fibromyalgia. The treatment I am on suppresses my immune system, so I spent the lockdowns here in Melbourne very much at home. Between March and September 2020, excepting medical appointments for me or my children, I left home only twice. I still wear a mask in shops and other crowded public places.
Back at the beginning of February when the ABC put out its vaccine eligibility tool, I jumped on and found I was in group 1b. I awaited government announcements to explain how I was going to be vaccinated. I spent time researching whether mRNA vaccines were safe for immunosuppressed patients. After a month with no word, but knowing immunisations were still being delivered to group 1a and therefore not expecting my turn to come any time soon, I called my GP. Her response was that they had been told nothing about how many doses they were going to receive, or even when they might expect more information. She suggested I ring back periodically to see if there was any new information.
Weeks later I spoke to the front desk and was informed I could put myself on a “reservation” list for when doses did arrive. This was around a month ago now and I have not yet heard anything. Given the blood clots issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine, I am now in a position where I wonder whether it’s suitable for me, given my predisposition to inflammatory issues and my suppressed immune system. There has been zero communication from the government, state or federal, that I’m aware of on this particular issue, beyond the blanket advice not to get the vaccine if you’re under 50.
All up I feel like I’m in limbo. Personally I just find it irritating that the attitude from the federal government appears to be “let the peasants scrabble for vaccines”.
My 89-year-old mother is in aged care and has yet to be vaccinated. I have been in continual contact with the care manager at the facility and they have been given no information as to when the residents will be vaccinated. They have tried to get a schedule from NSW Health with no success. On Thursday the operations manager emailed to confirm they have not been given any indication by any government agency about when vaccinations will happen.
Given the area this home is in was an early hotspot – resulting in one of the earliest lockdowns – and that subsequent to that aged care was pretty much in lockdown or under very tight restrictions for much of last year, I would urge the federal department of health to try to find a way to accelerate vaccination at this facility. I think these residents have endured a pretty harrowing 12 months and now with the recent news of the delays and issues with certain vaccines these residents and their families are under more duress.
The poor people running the home have also been put in the worst position. It’s appalling.
I’m in the 1b category, I have multiple chronic illnesses, including a neuroimmune condition requiring regular hospital-based treatments. I definitely do not feel safe to take AstraZeneca, due to multiple complex autoimmune diseases, including one in the past related to clotting factors.
As a result, my GP is unconvinced I’ll get vaccinated this year. She also said that GPs would be unlikely to be able to deliver the Pfizer vaccine at their clinics, and that the Pfizer vaccine would need to be delivered at mass vaccination centres. I’m not opposed to mass vaccination centres for most people, but for me it means my GP will have to provide a list of my health conditions and confirmation that I am in category 1b, and then I would have to take her letter and go to a mass vaccination clinic.
I have concerns about that because I haven’t always had positive experiences with doctors and I would prefer to be vaccinated by someone who knows my health history very well, and who I know takes that history very seriously. And having a vaccine from my own GP, who I think is more likely to engage in a really good conversation with me about my risks, would have been more reassuring.
I’m 41 and in the 1b group due to a previous heart issue. I am not comfortable taking AstraZeneca due to the blood clot risks.
The government keeps on talking about people in 1b being over 70 years old so they can have AstraZeneca. My concerns are that they don’t seem to have any plan for people under 50 in this group to get Pfizer and are now just leaving us to the end of the rollout.
I’ve chased this up with my federal ALP MP, Josh Burns, and he does not have an answer as to when I will be able to be vaccinated, due to a lack of clarity from the government. They keep saying they have the first 20m doses of Pfizer coming in, but who is getting them? Why aren’t people in the 1b group who cannot take AstraZeneca being mentioned by them?
As there is no Covid in the community, I’m comfortable enough at the moment with waiting, but I would like to know if, when and how I’ll get my vaccine.
I am 33 years old and received the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of group 1b of the vaccine rollout three weeks ago today. I experienced mild side effects: muscle fatigue – like I had done leg day at the gym – chills, overall fatigue and some brain fog. The side effects started approximately 18 to 20 hours after the injection.
I am currently unsure of what happens. The clinic where I received my vaccine stopped current appointments. I am not sure what will happen with the second dose. I feel anxious about the lack of information for those of us who received AstraZeneca already. My mother has a platelet issue and had her spleen removed. I am anxious whether this affects my chances of an adverse side-effect. I am also on the pill [which can increase risks of a different form of less serious clotting].
I think it is just frustrating at the lack of consistent information being released. I’ve been told that hopefully advice on my second dose will be released soon.
My boyfriend just had his AstraZeneca vaccination cancelled. He’s 50 in December. He was more than willing to go ahead with it but just got the call today, and is now looking to go elsewhere to see if they’ll administer it.
My dad got his vaccine today at the same clinic I did and he signed the consent form, as I did, so I’m not sure why they can’t let people make their own decisions about assuming the risk.
Dad also got a text this week checking that he was still going to go in and asking him to notify them if he was cancelling. My boyfriend was not given the option to “opt in”, they simply called him and cancelled it. Speaking to my boyfriend, he said that reading between the lines it seemed like they don’t want to assume the responsibility. They told him it was a change in policy.
I’ve since called the clinic, who gave me mine just over two weeks ago, and they’re happy to give it to him. They’re happy to forge ahead if patients are willing. He qualifies as he has Crohn’s disease. I qualify as I am recovering from cancer. I am still on track for my second dose as I had no adverse reactions from the first.
I am a phase-2b candidate age 70. On the morning of the announcement in March of the availability of AstraZeneca for 2b people, I rang my GP clinic. The clinic receptionist was exasperated.
They did not have the vaccine.
She volunteered that she had been inundated with calls. She suggested I call back at the end of the month. The truth was that only a limited number of clinics had been supplied for the 70-plus population rollout.
I then got on the phone to other clinics in my vicinity. They were vaccinating only patients registered with their clinics. I called my clinic again at the end of March and was informed that they still did not have a vaccine supply. They advised me to call again in the middle of April.
It was shortly after this that issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine came to public attention. I rang my clinic five minutes ago [on Thursday] and they still have not yet been supplied.