ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was surprised by the Prime Minister's "captain's call" on Monday night that Australians under-60 could access the AstraZeneca vaccine if they consulted their GP, saying the matter was not discussed at national cabinet.
This came after Queensland's Chief Health Officer doubled down on her position that Australians under-40 shouldn't take the AstraZeneca jab, adding to the mixed messages surrounding advice on the vaccine.
The state's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has also claimed national cabinet never discussed the advice, as she questioned if Scott Morrison's federal cabinet was responsible for the call.
The pair made the comments in an extraordinary press conference on Wednesday morning, as parts of Queensland remain in lockdown due to the state's latest coronavirus outbreak.
Three other capital cities - Sydney, Perth and Darwin - are also in lockdown after the emergence of new cases, including of the highly infectious Delta strain.
Alice Springs will also be forced into a three-day lockdown from 1pm on Wednesday afternoon, after a miner who passed through the local airport later tested positive.
South Australia has recorded five new cases, but Premier Steven Marshall said the state wouldn't be forced into lockdown. The cases are a man who returned from a NT mine exposure site, his wife and three of their four children.
Amid fears of a national outbreak, confusion continues to surround Prime Minister Scott Morrison's decision to expressly invite Australians aged under 60 to consult with the GPs about receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The messaging has been interpreted as somewhat at odds with the government's expert vaccine panel [ATAGI], which advises that the Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine for under-60s.
However, the panel does say that under-60s can take the AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot access Pfizer, the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks and the individual has made an "informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits".
A new no-fault indemnity scheme will be introduced to protect GPs who administer the vaccine, including AstraZeneca.
Mr Morrison's statements late on Monday night prompted a surge in bookings to GP clinics on Tuesday, as young Australians rushed to get vaccinated.
The shift in language blindsided the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who weren't consulted ahead of Monday's press conference, as well as state governments.
Mr Barr said the decision was not made at Monday night's meeting of federal, state and territory leaders.
"Technically it wasn't required to be agreed by national cabinet, the call of the Prime Minister - a captain's call if you like came as a surprise to me," he said.
"It was not a national cabinet decision, it was one that the Prime Minister has made of his own accord."
Mr Barr said the territory-run vaccination hubs would not move to offer AstraZeneca to under-60s, saying people needed consult with their GPs.
"The public health advice that's clear on the ATAGI website that there is a risk for people under 60 but that risk can be discussed with your GP," he said.
"But it does need to be an informed discussion and you do need to give consent and it's important it's done with a GP not through a mass vaccination clinic."
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said she didn't want under-40s to take the AstraZeneca jab because of the risks of blood clots.
The incidence of blood clots is about 3 in 100,000, according to the latest data.
"We've seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome," Dr Young said.
"I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness.
"We've had very few deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia in people under the age of 50, and wouldn't it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland who dies related to this pandemic died because of the vaccine?"
Asked to respond to Dr Young's comments, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reiterated that ATAGI had advised that Pfizer was the preferred vaccine for under-60s.
However, Dr Chant said the panel had said that people were able to make their own choices provided they were informed. She urged older people who have already received one AstraZeneca dose to make sure they booked in their second jab.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that if people under-60 wanted an AstraZeneca vaccine they needed to should speak to their GP.
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Speaking on Sky News, Health Minister Greg Hunt stressed that the advice had not changed.
"The medical advice is very clear that AstraZeneca is preferred for the over 60s and Pfizer for the under 60s," he said.
"The position has always been that consent, informed consent, is available for people to make their own choices. That hasn't changed. And then what has occurred is simply that we have provided indemnity for general practitioners."
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