A 34-year-old NSW woman has become the seventh Australian to die after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration confirmed on Thursday night that the death has once again been linked to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia or TTS — rare blood clotting associated with the vaccine.
“Sadly, a 34-year-old woman from NSW died yesterday from confirmed TTS following a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” the TGA said in a statement.
“The TGA extends its sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones. We are in close communication with NSW Health who are undertaking further investigation of this case.
“The TGA is also closely monitoring reports of suspected immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) following the AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of myocarditis and pericarditis following the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine.
“The protective benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 far outweigh the potential risks of vaccination.”
Of the seven deaths, six have been linked to rare blood clots.
The latest deaths follows thousands of younger Australians volunteering to take the vaccine despite the rare risks due to a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine. The official advice is that the Pfizer vaccine is the best option for under-60s but in the event of an outbreak to consider taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The TGA said three additional cases of blood clots with low blood platelets have been assessed as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) likely to be linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
When assessed using the United Kingdom (UK) case definition, two were confirmed and one was deemed probable TTS. Those cases include the latest death.
Australia’s vaccine advisory group ATAGI recommends AstraZeneca for over-60s and Pfizer for under-60s.
But in response to the Sydney outbreak, ATAGI last month updated its advice to say that in Covid-19 hot spots everyone over 18 should consult their GP and “strongly consider” getting any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca, as the risk of the virus outweighs the risk of rare blood clots.
Australia’s acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd echoed that advice earlier this week, after comments by Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young again urging young people not to get AstraZeneca.
At a press conference in Canberra, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Professor Kidd said the outbreak in Queensland had “reframed” the expert advice from ATAGI.
“The benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of the rare side effects occurring, in all age groups,” Prof Kidd said.
On July 24, ATAGI released a statement clarifying the existing advice on the use of AstraZeneca in younger age groups to say it should be taken in consultation with your doctor in response to the NSW outbreak.
“All individuals aged 18 years and above in greater Sydney, including adults under 60 years of age, should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine including Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” the ATAGI advice states.
“This is on the basis of the increasing risk of Covid-19 and ongoing constraints of Comirnaty (Pfizer) supplies. In addition, people in areas where outbreaks are occurring can receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine four to eight weeks after the first dose, rather than the usual 12 weeks, to bring forward optimal protection.”
Mr Hunt also urged all Queenslanders to get vaccinated as soon as they were eligible.
“In terms of Queensland, our message is the ATAGI advice has been reframed,” he said.
“If you’re over 60, AstraZeneca is the preferred vaccine. If you’re under 60, it is something, in a hotspot, which Michael has set out, in an outbreak area that people should strongly consider.”