New South Wales could give out 350,000 vaccines a day if supply wasn’t an issue

Australia’s bungled vaccine rollout poses a particular danger for people over the age of 60, one of the country’s top health officials has claimed. 

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Monday her state could administer ‘well over’ 350,000 vaccines a day if the doses were available but was dealing with a shortage of the Pfizer option. 

She also added there were certain ‘priority groups’ such as those in the aged care and disability sectors who she was concerned needed to be vaccinated as soon as possible but are the responsibility of the Commonwealth government. 

NSW’s top health official has said more than 350,000 people could be getting vaccinated for Covid each day in the state if there were no supply issues (pictured: residents at the Olympic Park vaccination hub wait in line) 

‘Ultimately, if we had more vaccine, we could do more,’ Dr Chant told reporters, adding that she urged the public to consider the AstraZeneca option which is in plentiful supply. 

Dr Chant also said the lack of Pfizer supply combined with hesitancy over AstraZeneca because of a very rare blood clot side effect, was contributing to older Australians – those most at risk to Covid – not being immunised. 

‘It is actually quite distressing, when I review the numbers, to see how few over 60-year-olds and over 70-year-olds we have managed to reach,’ Dr Chant said. 

‘For me, anyone who is over 60 or over 70 should be going to their doctor as a matter of urgency – or their pharmacist, which will be opening up across the State in coming days, and get a dose of vaccine and please keep yourself safe.’ 

When asked if NSW was relying on younger residents getting the AstraZeneca jab in  order to lift the state’s strict lockdown as there is a shortage or Pfizer, Dr Chant hinted lockdown could be around for a while yet.    

‘I think we need to say that these lockdowns require patience.’ 

‘Every day I look at the data on the number of hospitalisations … the number of young people that are impacted … and it actually is quite distressing.’ 

Dr Chant also urged young people to consider getting the jab to "protect the community" (pictured: Chloe Cooper get a vaccine at one of Sydney's vaccine hubs)

Dr Chant also urged young people to consider getting the jab to ‘protect the community’ (pictured: Chloe Cooper get a vaccine at one of Sydney’s vaccine hubs) 

‘We have had the opportunity to get an AstraZeneca shot for a long time and I am urging the community to play their part, protect themselves, protect their loved ones.’

She added NSW health officials are working on a strategy of how the Pfizer doses can be used to be effect in the community. 

AstraZeneca has defended its vaccine for all adults after Australia’s expert immunisation panel again changed advice for people in Sydney.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation strongly recommends everyone in Sydney get any jab available, including AstraZeneca.

NSW recorded 145 new local cases on Monday with Sydney’s ongoing coronavirus crisis likely to lead to a lockdown extension beyond Friday.

AstraZeneca pointed to global medical advice showing its vaccine was effective against the contagious Delta strain circulating in Australia.

‘Regulatory authorities around the world have stated that the benefit of using our vaccine significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups,’ the company said in a statement.

More than 750 million doses of AstraZeneca have been supplied to more than 170 countries in the past year.

Victorian Governor Linda Dessau (pictured) receives her COVID-19 vaccination at the mass vaccination hub at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne in May

Victorian Governor Linda Dessau (pictured) receives her COVID-19 vaccination at the mass vaccination hub at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne in May 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said there was now alignment between the situation in Sydney and ATAGI’s advice.

‘The message from our medical experts is abundantly clear: go and get vaccinated,’ he told reporters in Melbourne.

Mr Frydenberg said ending lockdowns, reopening Australia and ensuring families were safe depended on people being immunised.

‘Getting vaccinated is our ticket out of this crisis.’

Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie said the risk of side effects from AstraZeneca was incredibly low.

‘We have had the privilege here in this country, the choice maybe, to choose the Lamborghini versus the Ferrari of COVID vaccines when we really just need to be getting vaccinated,’ she told Sky News.

Just over 16 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

Dr Chant (pictured) said she was "distressed" at the low number of vaccines being administered to older Australians

Dr Chant (pictured) said she was ‘distressed’ at the low number of vaccines being administered to older Australians 

Pfizer remains the preferred vaccine for under-60s, but any adult can go to a doctor and seek an AstraZeneca jab if they provide informed consent.

Eight people, including a woman aged in her 30s, have died during Sydney’s outbreak taking the national coronavirus death toll to 918.

Immunologist Peter Doherty said the Delta variant had led to more severe disease in younger people.

‘A lot of young people thought for a long time that they kind of had a free pass with this,’ he told ABC radio.

People have a much greater risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the virus than the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said ATAGI’s latest advice was not a major departure from its earlier recommendations.

‘There’s not a big change between what they did say previously, which was that people could get the vaccine to AstraZeneca if they consulted with their doctor,’ he said.

‘Now they say, because the risk assessment has changed, they’ve made a slight adjustment to that advice.’

The ATAGI advice on AstraZeneca balances the risk of developing rare blood clots against the benefits of protection against coronavirus.