A highly regarded medical researcher, a Coalition MP, has made a stunning admission about Australia’s bungled vaccine rollout.
A Coalition MP has made a stunning admission about Australia’s fight against coronavirus, admitting she wrote to the nation’s vaccine advisory group asking it to reconsider its advice about AstraZeneca.
Dr. Katie Allen, who worked as a medical researcher and pediatrician before becoming the federal member for Higgins in 2019, told ABC’s Q&Ashe had written to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), asking the body to change its advice calling for people under the age of 60 to avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A third death was “likely” linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday night after the Therapeutic Goods Administration concluded its investigation into the end of a 61-year-old woman at a Perth hospital.
She received the vaccine in early June and was admitted to the hospital later that month, where she died from immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). Speaking on the current affairs program, Dr. Allen said the benefits of AstraZeneca continued to outweigh the risks. “I’m deeply disappointed about the way the Australian population has perceived the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said. “Two unfortunate deaths from 4.5 million doses.”
News of the third death broke just before Dr. Allen started filming Q&A, with host David Speers telling her that “now it’s three”. “Still less than one in a million. Early on, the clots associated with AstraZeneca were being mistreated by doctors. That‘s been rectified now,” Dr. Allen said.
Last month, ATAGI released a bombshell statement recommending Pfizer “as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to under 60 years”. Dr. Allen said in response to the information she had written to ATAGI and “asked them to review their advice based on the changing situation internationally”.
“I think there are two aspects to this. Firstly, ATAGI, the Australian Government, and the TGA said that we will be open and transparent about all risks with the Australian population.
“We do know that trust and respect come with transparency and that we are going to be very clear about any side effects and any deaths. “That was a commitment we made, and have been very clear about that.”
While ATAGI “can provide advice … at the end of the day the government should make the decision”. Dr. Allen, a member of the National Health and Research Advisory Committee (NHRAC), said she “would have preferred ATAGI say there are risks and warnings” rather than recommend AstraZeneca only be administered to over 60s.
“I think we can see now that people understand that they can receive AstraZeneca in these other age categories and should speak to their doctor and have a consented process and make the decision for themselves.
“Within these committee decision processes (ATAGI), and I know many of the individuals in those committees, there has been a variation of opinion.
“This is the thing in science. Science, like politics, is a contest of ideas. If you look to Europe, they all came up with different decisions. There’s not a clear decision about what is the best way.” When Speers questioned if Dr. Allen was just “adding to the confusion” about what Australians should do, she admitted at the end of the day, ATAGI was the peak body.
“But if you look clearly at the recommendations, you can have AstraZeneca; it‘s just the way it’s been transmitted as information … At the end of the day, please go and get vaccinated. “Both of them are good at preventing death, and that‘s the point about this vaccination program.”
ITP, the rare bleeding disorder linked to AstraZeneca, occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys platelets, which help the blood to clot. The link between ITP and the vaccine is still under investigation, but research suggests the risk is about one case per 100,000 AstraZeneca doses.
Despite the deaths, experts say the benefits of AstraZeneca continue to outweigh the risks of dying from Covid and encourage people to get the job.
“With the ongoing risk of Covid outbreaks in Australia and the potential for severe long-term effects or fatal consequences of infection, the benefits for the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks,” the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said last month.
The regulator said vaccination was the most effective way to protect against infectious diseases such as Covid-19, which has resulted in over 3.7 million people worldwide, including over 900 deaths in Australia.
“When you get vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and helping to protect the wider community,” the TGA said. As of July 4, the TGA had received 36 reports of suspected ITP. “The TGA continues to investigate this issue, and we will report more information when it is known,” they said. About five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Australia.