One man, four experts: will he choose AstraZeneca or wait?

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Tristan Lawrence, 31 and humanitarian-minded, went on Q+A with the question many young Australians are asking in the face of contradictory advice. Is it worth being vaccinated with AstraZeneca?

Before him on the panel were two health experts, a well-connected commentator, a Liberal MP and the Premier of Queensland. No shortage of expertise.

Annastacia Palaszczuk.Credit:Getty

Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has led the charge against AstraZeneca for people under 40 along with her chief health officer, was up first, telling people to talk to their GPs. Her emphasis though? “Our advice is to wait until you can get Pfizer,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious diseases expert, said Australia had poor quality data on young people suffering the rare but serious blood clotting condition associated with AstraZeneca called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome. But it showed enough, Dr Ananda-Rajah said, for her to be confident that Australia would see “one to two cases per day” if the country started vaccinating 20,000-40,000 people under 40 with AstraZeneca daily.

Stephen Duckett, a former Health Department boss now at the non-partisan Grattan Institute think tank, said even if young people began getting vaccinated now, it would make no difference to when Australia opens its borders. “It will not bring forward the border opening one second, let alone one day,” Dr Duckett said.

Only Liberal MP Jason Falinski, who is 50, was positive about AstraZeneca. He is booked in for an AstraZeneca shot on Tuesday. Should others follow your lead, host David Speers asked.

“I’m not sure anyone should follow my lead,” Mr Falinski groused. “I’m a Liberal on Q+A with you hosting. Clearly I have a very high risk appetite.

“But having said that, I’m getting AstraZeneca next Tuesday because my view is that I’ve looked at the risks, I’ve looked at the benefits. I think the risk massively outweigh the benefits. If I can free up a Pfizer dose for someone else who doesn’t have my risk appetite that is fine by me.”

Mr Lawrence, who said he had been seriously considering getting an AstraZeneca shot before asking his question, was now having second thoughts after hearing the panel’s warnings.

“Maybe I will wait for Pfizer and I will go and talk to my GP if I do consider taking the vaccine,” he said.

If there is one thing the Prime Minister’s decision to spruik AstraZeneca and indemnify general practitioners who deliver it accomplished, it is that people like Mr Lawrence are thinking about that question and making up their own minds.

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