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Shy of the needle: Minister asks why Qld is most hesitant state

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The Queensland government is investigating vaccine hesitancy in the state, examining differences within age groups and between brands as it shifts its advice on AstraZeneca amid a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

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Health minister Yvette D’Ath said the government did a lot of consumer advocacy to find out why “we have vaccine hesitancy or why we’re not coming forward”.

Data needs to be examined to determine differences between vaccines and within age groups, but Ms D’Ath said she had seen “pretty consistent” numbers across the state.

“We want to have a look at those numbers a little bit closer,” she said.

She was speaking before news of the COVID-19 death of a Sydney man in his 20s, which prompted authorities in that state to renew appeals to young people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The sudden death of the unvaccinated man in his southwest Sydney home will be referred to the NSW coroner.

The Daily Telegraph reported the man was a 27-year-old forklift driver Aude Alaskar, who collapsed in the Liverpool unit he shared with his wife on Tuesday and was unable to be revived by paramedics.

His death comes a year after that of a Victorian man in his 20s who was reported to be Australia’s youngest COVID-19 fatality.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the man’s death “demonstrates again how this disease is lethal, how it affects people of all ages”.

Until recently, the Queensland government advised people under 40 not to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in plentiful supply, due to the extremely small risk of a rare but treatable blood clotting disorder.

Earlier this week, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young changed her advice in line with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, saying people should talk to their GPs about getting AstraZeneca.

“The ATAGI advice says when you reach a large outbreak which I think we’re on the verge of…that’s the time to go and have that discussion with your GP,” she said on Tuesday.

The ATAGI has reaffirmed previous advice that in a large outbreak, the benefits of AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.

Young denied Queensland had the highest vaccine hesitancy in the country, but said she was concerned that a significant proportion of people over 60 still weren’t vaccinated.

“Language issues” also need to be looked at, Ms D’Ath said.

“We have been really, really strong and I think led the country … in the way we’ve embraced and engaged with our multicultural communities,” she said.

“We want to do that, not just in testing and messaging around staying at home but also about vaccination.”

Meanwhile, D’Ath said she did not know when an extra 150,000 AstraZeneca dose would arrive after being promised by the Commonwealth government.

Information provided to pharmacies suggested the vaccine won’t arrive until next week.

“They don’t even have a date, just next week sometime,” D’Ath said.

“It should be getting on trucks today, 224 pharmacists were approved yesterday to start putting needles in arms.”

South East Queensland is in the midst of an eight-day lockdown and the state government is still hopeful it can lift some restrictions on Sunday as planned.

The state opposition has criticised the government for what it says was a failure to accept previous doses of AstraZeneca made before the current Delta outbreak.

“The fact of the matter is that in June this year the Health Minister knocked back 100,000 doses a week from the Federal Government and in July they were offered 25,000 doses a week of AstraZeneca,” health spokeswoman Ros Bates said on Wednesday.

Addressing vaccine confusion, Bates said Queenslanders should talk to their GP and get vaccinated.

“It’s that simple,” she said.

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