Getting vaccinated may be the only way out of lockdowns and business closures for Aussies, but one western Sydney GP has revealed why some of his patients are turning down the lifesaving vaccine.
Mount Druitt Medical Centre GP Dr Kean-Seng Lim told A Current Affair that around one in five of his older patients are refusing to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“There’s probably a fairly sizeable proportion of patients over the age of 60 who are now saying I want to wait until the Pfizer vaccine is available for me,” he said.
AstraZeneca has been made available to Australians aged 60 and over, with those in this age group facing an increased risk of dying if they contract coronavirus.
The AstraZeneca vaccine comes with an extremely rare risk of blood-clotting which occurs in one in 100,000 who have the jab.
The risk of dying of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine is one in two million compared to a one in 200 chance of dying if you contract coronavirus when you are over 60.
For those aged 59 and under, Pfizer is the preferred vaccine. However, Australians who do not wish to wait until it is available for their age group can opt to get AstraZeneca now after a consultation with their doctor.
Dr Lim told A Current Affair that reports in the media of people dying of the rare AstraZeneca side effect had prompted hesitancy in his patients.
On Thursday, the TGA confirmed that a 44-year-old Tasmanian man had died from the blood clotting disorder, making him the sixth person in Australia to die out of 6.1 million doses of Astra Zeneca.
“Across our practice we have around 3600 patients and of that number about 600 are over the age of 60, and therefore would be eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Dr Lim said.
“So far we have managed to vaccinate about two-thirds of them either with one dose or two doses.
“But the remaining third are noticeably showing some increasing signs of anxiety about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which occurs every time there is something new that comes out about it or every time there is a change in the recommendations from ATAGI.”
Dr Lim said he was having conversations with older patients who said they wanted to wait until they could get Pfizer “half a dozen times a day”.
The GP said that while he respected patients’ “personal choice”, there needed to be a “good messaging campaign” about the benefits of AstraZeneca.
There had been a “huge demand” for AstraZeneca in the early phase of the vaccine rollout but Dr Lim was now seeing “increasing levels of vaccine hesitancy” due to media reports about reactions to the jab.
“AstraZeneca does seem to have gotten a bit of a reputation as a second-rate vaccine,” Dr Lim said.
“Whereas we know in reality it’s actually a very effective vaccine and it really works well.”