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Scott Morrison tackles medical advice at heart of vaccine program

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Morrison mentioned it was as much as the medical consultants to rethink the competing dangers – that’s, the danger of blood clots from AstraZeneca in comparison with the danger of demise from COVID-19. He admitted he had requested ATAGI to assume once more.

“It’s a constant appeal, I can assure you,” he mentioned. “It’s a constant appeal that the situation that Australia faces should be managed on the balance of risk, as ATAGI has said to me in the past.”

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.Credit:AP

There isn’t any hiding this message from the Prime Minister to an skilled group that makes some of the most important selections on this pandemic. But it isn’t undue strain. And it doesn’t imply Morrison is refusing to observe ATAGI’s advice.

There is a job for Morrison within the course of. “The independent group recommends, the government decides,” says Chris Moy, the vice chairman of the Australian Medical Association. The final resolution is as much as these elected to workplace. Moy sees a hazard in Morrison’s phrases, as a result of the federal government should not try to pressure a call, however he believes all stakeholders can put their view.

Morrison is doing his job in testing the ATAGI advice on questions that can not be left to the docs alone. One key assumption in ATAGI’s largest resolution, on April 8, was about vaccine provide. The group needed to weigh up the danger of blood clots in opposition to the danger that vaccines would arrive too slowly to guard Australians from the virus.

ATAGI made its name to favor Pfizer for these below 50. It was late within the day. Morrison known as a press convention for 7.30pm and rushed out the choice. It was a joint blunder. The medical consultants missed an opportunity to speak their pondering in a extra measured method. The hasty announcement compounded the issue.

That resolution is now contested by medical consultants, not simply politicians. Australian National University professor Peter Collignon says the rollout has proven that the danger of demise from blood clots is one in each million individuals who take AstraZeneca. “There are a lot of drugs we don’t even think about with a much higher risk of death,” he says.

ATAGI went additional on June 17 and most well-liked Pfizer for these below 60. “That was a dagger to the heart of AstraZeneca,” says one observer. Several medical consultants say it was a foul name. Australia was nearer than it knew to a different wave of an infection and lockdown.

Collignon, who shouldn’t be a member of ATAGI, says the group was too conservative in regards to the possible unfold of the virus. “To some extent, we overplayed the downside from the vaccine and underplayed the plus side.”

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This has been a disaster for the vaccine rollout. “We’re awash with AstraZeneca,” says the NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard. The CSL facility in Melbourne is producing a million AstraZeneca doses every week however few will take them.

So Australians are ready for Pfizer. In lockdown. With case numbers rising.

The deaths of two extra Australians from blood clots this week – a Tasmanian man, 44, and a Victorian lady, 48 – may make issues worse. Yet this can be a international pandemic that can final years, with few choices however to attempt to acquire immunity. The Therapeutic Goods Administration experiences six deaths linked to AstraZeneca out of six million doses.

Morrison is making cautious selections inside the ATAGI tips. First, by making it simpler for youthful folks to get AstraZeneca after giving “informed consent” to their docs. Then, on Thursday, by giving them the identical choice at pharmacies. He praises ATAGI whereas discovering methods round it.

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Labor sees an opportunity to sheet dwelling the blame to Morrison. “It is quite extraordinary that we’d have the Prime Minister sort of publicly attacking and pressuring this group,” says Labor finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher. This ties in with Labor’s portrayal of Morrison as a bully.

It may work, too. If voters have to decide on between trusting a politician or a health care provider, they are going to depart the politician within the ready room.

Morrison has chosen to say “sorry” this week for the issues within the vaccine program – an apology dragged out of him over a number of days – however the query of blame is difficult. Most importantly, he bears the blame for not securing extra vaccine choices final 12 months.

In questioning ATAGI, nonetheless, Morrison is doing what any chief ought to. It seems that medical advice could be examined. And it may be discovered wanting.

David Crowe is chief political correspondent at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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