Health

Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's shot.

Possible link between AstraZeneca product and rare cases of blood clots prompts country to stop using vaccine

Australia had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

"While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved," Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia's hard-line response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions, but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic — and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders — after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison said, noting that the speed of Australia's vaccination program was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

So far, more than 19 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while the Australian government says it has given shots to nearly 1.18 million people, or 4.5 per cent of its population.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other countries, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

Clarifications

  • This article has been updated to show the percentage of people in Canada and Australia who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested his country's campaign was ahead of Canada's.
    Apr 12, 2021 7:47 PM ET

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