The Australian government yesterday said that it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot.
The Australian government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration.
However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract, because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses.
Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory group.
“J&J is another viral vector vaccine and we have no advice recommending, at this point, that the government purchase any additional viral vector vaccine,” Hunt told reporters. “That’s not a reflection, that’s simply an observation.”
Australia has been relatively successful in containing the spread of the virus, but criticism is mounting over the pace of its vaccination rollout.
Australia had planned to rely on Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca to reach a target of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October.
However, the government abandoned that target after it last week advised that Pfizer was now the preferred option for people under 50 years because of a potential risk of rare blood clots linked to AstraZeneca.
A man in Victoria state who received an AstraZeneca injection on March 22 had to be hospitalized with blood clots.
A second case was reported yesterday of a woman who was inoculated in Western Australia and hospitalized in Darwin, the regulator said in a statement.
With 700,000 AstraZeneca doses injected in Australia since early last month, the two cases equate to a clotting frequency of 1 in 350,000, the regulator said.
British authorities have said the risk of such blood clots is 1 in 250,000 in that country.
The Australian government has doubled its Pfizer order to 40 million doses and Hunt said delivery of the additional 20 million doses was expected in the last three months of this year.
“That would mean a significant sprint for those that hadn’t been vaccinated by then,” Hunt said, referring to the government’s hope to have the population inoculated this year.
Australia had hoped to administer 4 million doses of the two vaccines by the end last month, but had injected only 1.2 million doses by Monday.
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