AstraZeneca’s maker warns Australia’s mixed signals that the effective jab could cost lives

Maker of AstraZeneca vaccine warns Australia’s mixed reports of effective injection could cost lives

  • Dame Sarah Gilbert says wider use could have prevented lockdowns
  • Belief in AZ shattered by medical advice on rare blood clotting side effect
  • Says messages about the vaccines should be clear across the board
  • Changing messages could make it difficult for people to consider the vaccine

Co-creator of the AstraZeneca vaccine Dame Sarah Gilbert claims mixed reports from health experts and the federal government have hindered the vaccine’s rollout in Australia.

Dame Gilbert spoke about the introduction of AstraZeneca Down Under as debate continues over whether wider use of the vaccine could have shortened or even prevented the most recent shutdowns in Sydney and Melbourne.

Professor Greg Dore, an infectious disease expert at the Kirby Institute in Sydney, said Australia will look back on this debacle “as one of the biggest public health failures in many years”.

“If it is now possible to accelerate vaccination in Australia and save lives by getting people vaccinated quickly, it will not be the biggest public health disaster the country has ever seen,” Dame Gilbert said of the statement in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald.

Dame Sarah Gilbert (pictured), co-architect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has said mixed reports have hampered vaccine rollouts across Australia

The vaccine was said to be the backbone of the introduction of Covid shots in Australia, but confidence in the injection was shattered by medical advice against its use in people under 60 due to the extremely rare risk of blood clotting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently urged every adult over 18 to get it after consulting a GP.

Dame Gilbert says it’s easier in retrospect to comment on the vaccine rollout in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) urges Australians over 18 to get the vaccine after consulting their GP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) urges Australians over 18 to get the vaccine after consulting their GP

She said coverage of the vaccine is key to its rollout. If the public health messages are clear, concise, and the same across the board, people are more likely to stick to them.

As news coverage changes, she says, it’s hard for people to decide whether to get the vaccine and which one is right for them.

Dame Gilbert and her colleague Catherine Green of the University of Oxford developed the AstraZeneca vaccine in record time last year and have written a book explaining their pursuit and the science behind it.

The vaccine will be produced at cost for the duration of the pandemic under Oxford’s agreement with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Oxford and AstraZeneca announced local time Thursday that one billion doses have now been released to 170 countries.

Dame Gilbert acknowledged that countries with lower transmission rates can account for the vaccine’s minor side effects, but welcomes a new debate in Australia, where the number of cases is now high, over whether it should be made more widely available.

“If you have an increasing risk of Covid infections in Australia, with the Delta variant being so transmissible, then I think it would be good to re-evaluate the recommendations for using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.

AZ was said to be the backbone of Australia's Covid jab rollout, but it was tarnished by medical advice that advised against its use in people under 60 due to rare blood clotting (stock image)

AZ was said to be the backbone of Australia’s Covid jab rollout, but it was tarnished by medical advice that advised against its use in people under 60 due to rare blood clotting (stock image)

She also commented on the protests in the cities, stating that while no one wants to be locked up, the only way out of the situation is to get vaccinated.

Dame Gilbert took the opportunity to state that there were not yet enough vaccines in circulation and that priority should be given to those at risk, especially health professionals and those most at risk in developing countries.

Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and principal investigator of the clinical trials, said explaining the concept of risk was a serious failure during the pandemic.

The national cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Australia.

Regarding the recent protests, Gilbert noted that while no one wants to be locked up, the only way out is to get vaccinated (stock image)

Regarding the recent protests, Gilbert noted that while no one wants to be locked up, the only way out is to get vaccinated (stock image)

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