Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 9.00AM 9 APRIL 2021

Morning. I have with me the Secretary of Health Kathryn Morgan-Wicks and obviously Dr Mark Veitch.

Now, our first priority has and remains the health, safety and wellbeing of Tasmanians as we work our way through COVID-19.

We have taken expert health and expert medical advice every step of the way, and we will continue to do so.

Last night, the Prime Minister announced important changes to our country’s vaccine rollout after receiving updated advice from its Vaccine Expert Taskforce and the Australian Ethnical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

To be clear, the medical advice the Australian Government has received remains that the AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe disease caused by COVID-19.

There is advice that there is a very rare side effect from AstraZeneca in relation to a blood clotting syndrome that may affect between four and six people in every one million, four and six people in every one million.

While this is extremely rare, it is prudent to exercise caution, and on that basis, the recommendation is that the Pfizer vaccine be the preferred vaccine provided to adults under the age of fifty, whereas the AstraZeneca vaccine remains recommended for those people over the age of fifty.

And just for perspective, last night the Prime Minister said that the risk of severe side effects with AstraZeneca is much lower than with common drugs, such as the old contraceptive pill.

But, the important thing to do, just as what has always been done with other drugs, is to ensure that we provide the community with advice as and when it comes to hand.

This vaccine will continue to play a very important role in Tasmania’s vaccination rollout, just as it has done in other places around the world.

In the United Kingdom alone, the advice is that some 6,000 lives have been saved by this vaccine, so the benefits are very clear.

And from UK data, the risk of developing this very rare blood clotting disease following the vaccine is about five per one million people, as I’ve said.

Last night, when we received that advice, our Tasmanian health authorities contacted Tasmanians under the age of fifty who have a vaccine appointment booked today at our state-based clinics to reschedule appointments.

A communication via a GP fax stream was also sent to all of the state’s GPs overnight, and update advice is also being uploaded to the coronavirus.tas.gov.au website.

Further contact will be made with people under fifty today who are already booked in for their vaccination, and also under fifties who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Staff working at the clinics also have this updated advice, in case Tasmanians under the age of fifty turn up for their vaccine and are unaware of the change.

In making this change last night, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer outlined that of an estimated one million doses of the vaccine administered in Australia so far of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer, there has been just one case of this rare clotting disorder.

However, those who had the vaccine within the past two weeks should be watching out for specific symptoms which both Kathryn Morgan-Wicks and Dr Veitch will provide more specific advice on in a moment.

In terms of what this change means for Tasmania’s planned vaccine rollout, we are working our way through that, and as the Prime Minister said last night, there will be some recalibration, but we will work our way through that over coming days.

We will continue to vaccinate our high priority frontline workers with the Pfizer vaccine, and our state-based clinics who are primarily vaccinating those in the over-seventy cohort with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

We will review our program and timeframes based on requiring more of the Pfizer vaccine which is dependent on its supply into the country and obviously into the state.

Before handing over to Kathryn Morgan-Wicks and Dr Veitch, I’d like to remind Tasmanians that if they have any concerns, they should please ring the Public Health hotline on 1800 671 738 or contact their GP.

I’ll now hand over to Kath to make some further comments.