National News

Second case of rare blood clots identified

Health authorities are grappling with the nation's first coronavirus death for the year as a second case of a rare blood clot believed to be linked to the AstraZeneca jab is recorded.

A man in his 80s has died from complications due to COVID-19 after returning to Queensland from the Philippines on March 20.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says it shows the importance of getting the vaccine.

"Vaccinations are a fundamental part of the capacity for each individual to protect themselves but also to play their part in protecting everyone else in Australia," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Authorities are working through the fallout of updated health advice meaning the Pfizer jab is now the preferred option for people under the age of 50.

A rare but potentially deadly blood-clotting disorder has been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a second case identified on Tuesday.

A woman in her 40s is in a stable condition in hospital after getting blood clots following her vaccination in Western Australia.

Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt said Australians had a higher chance of winning the lottery than getting the blood clot.

"That's an extremely remote and unlikely event. It's a very rare finding," Adjunct Professor Skerritt told reporters.

"We are encouraging as many doctors and as many clinics to report anything suspicious and we will do the detective work."

A 44-year-old Melbourne man developed the condition following his AstraZeneca vaccination last month.

Expert advisers to the TGA have concluded the latest incident is similar to blood clotting cases seen in Europe and the United Kingdom.

About 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered in Australia, so the two cases equate to a frequency of one in every 350,000 people.

The United Kingdom has found the overall risk of these rare blood clots was approximately one in 250,000 people who received the vaccine.

People who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine have been asked to look out for symptoms including severe or persistent headaches, blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or abdominal pain.

Symptoms also include unusual skin bruising and pinpoint round spots beyond the site of injection.

It remains unknown when Australia's international border will reopen, with Mr Hunt saying vaccines were only part of the equation.

"Vaccination alone is no guarantee that you can open up," he said.

"If the whole country are vaccinated you couldn't just open the borders. We still have to look at a series of different factors - transmission, longevity and the global impact."

Meanwhile, the federal government has decided against buying the one-dose Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine to boost the nation's immunisation stocks.

The government was in talks with the pharmaceutical giant but has ruled out proceeding with the purchase at this stage because it is too similar to the AstraZeneca drug.

However, a third vaccine - made by Novavax - is expected to be available in June.

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler says Australia needs more vaccine deals and an updated timeline for the rollout.

"You can't just simply duck your responsibility as prime minister to set out a clear plan that will give businesses and the border Australian community confidence to move ahead," he told reporters in Adelaide.

© AAP 2021