Qld Covid update: chief health officer rejects claims of ‘scaremongering’ over AstraZeneca vaccine

Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young, has rejected concerns from fellow health experts that she “undermined” confidence in the national Covid vaccine program, a day after voicing strong opposition to people under 40 receiving the AstraZeneca jab.

Queensland reported two new community cases of Covid-19 on Thursday. One is linked to a known cluster and the other is a check-in worker at the Brisbane international airport, who is considered “low risk” to have further transmitted the virus.

South-east Queensland, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Palm Island remain in a three-day lockdown, which authorities are confident can be lifted on Friday evening.

After providing information about the most recent cases, Young faced questions from reporters about comments the previous day, which have drawn criticism.

On Wednesday, Young said she did not want anyone under 40 taking AstraZeneca and “dying from a clotting illness” when the comparative risk of death from Covid was minimal.

The Australian Medical Association vice-president, Dr Chris Moy, said Young had allowed “internal anxieties” to undermine the vaccine program and that her advice was out of step with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi).

“It’s problematic if this is taken as a command, or an edict, or an imposition of particular internal anxieties about the situation, rather than an opinion,” Moy, who is a member of the Atagi Covid-19 working group, told ABC Radio.

“Unfortunately, the level of emotion that was shown in that interview was really out of keeping with what we’ve seen before, and really has actually undermined a vaccine to some degree.

“It’s like undermining one particular brand and you know, what if we find there is a problem later with the other vaccine, then we’re nowhere.”

At Queensland’s press briefing on Thursday morning, Young said questions about her stance on vaccines were “unnecessary” and she made clear she had long advocated for vaccinations.

Asked whether her comments on Wednesday were scaremongering and whether she regretted them, Young responded: “No, I just put out the facts.

“That is the truth, that there is a risk that you can die from one of those rare – and they are rare – blood clots, and the younger you are the more likely it is that it will happen.

“All vaccination should be an individual discussion with your GP, because there are some people who definitely should not be getting AstraZeneca, no matter what age they are.

“I am giving my advice. I am a doctor. I’ve been involved in Australia’s vaccination program now for 16 years. I have the vaccination rate here for our little ones up to five years old up to 95%. I am on the record as supporting vaccination. But I want the right vaccine to go to the right person.

“This is my advice. People, of course, can go and get their own advice. They can get it from wherever they wish to get it, but my advice is very, very clear.”

Young said she was confident Queensland would be able to lift its lockdowns on Friday, but said the challenge remained that the state was attempting to contain five separate clusters and ensure that people potentially exposed to the virus from each was in isolation.

“[There are] five incidents we are now having to manage with this additional one related to the international airport. That’s a lot. Each incident in and of itself I’m pretty confident about.”

The two new cases include a person, already in isolation, linked to a Portuguese restaurant in Brisbane’s south-west.

The other was a woman, 37, who worked at the Qatar Airways check-in counter at Brisbane international airport. It is not yet known what variant of the virus the woman contracted, but she has been in limited public settings since becoming infectious.

Queensland administered a record number of vaccines – more than 18,000 – and a near-record 29,900 Covid tests on Wednesday.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the latest results were encouraging and also offered a full-throated defence of Young.

“Dr Young is one of the most respected health professionals in the country,” Palaszczuk said.

“Not only has she kept us safe, she’s allowed our economy to open up faster than most other places in Australia.

“We want Australia to be vaccinated as carefully and safely as possible.”

The deputy premier, Steven Miles, who has become the state’s chief political attack dog, repeated calls for a cap on international arrivals.

• This article was amended on 2 July 2021 to clarify Dr Chris Moy’s association with Atagi.


Ben Smee

The GuardianTramp

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