Younger people are taking up the AstraZeneca vaccine as Canberra's COVID-19 outbreak worsens

Eric Usher and his housemate Matthias Wurdack are two young Canberrans who have gotten the AstraZeneca jab. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Eric Usher and his housemate Matthias Wurdack are two young Canberrans who have gotten the AstraZeneca jab. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Young Canberrans are coming out in droves to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with AstraZeneca as the Delta outbreak in the territory has spurred an increase in demand.

More than 3200 AstraZeneca doses were provided in the ACT last week and already more than half that number were administered on Monday and Tuesday of this week alone.

People aged 25 to 29 made up the biggest cohort to receive the jab last week, with 606 doses.

That is set to be surpassed with another 410 doses provided to that age group on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Canberrans aged 20 to 24 are also turning up in big numbers with 545 doses last week and 370 doses at the start of this week.

It's a major increase from the week of August 2, when 167 people aged 20 to 24 were vaccinated and 249 people aged 25 to 29.

People aged 60 to 64 are the third biggest cohort to receive the jab, with 412 last week and 424 the week prior.


Eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine, which is the recommended choice for people under 60, will be expanded to all Australians above the age 16 at the end of the month.

Australia has now passed the halfway mark with 50 per cent of the eligible population protected with one dose of vaccine. About 28 per cent are fully immunised.

The territory remains a leader in first dose coverage, with 56.4 per cent, while 32.5 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr issued a stern warning to Canberrans on Thursday, while calling for people to attend their vaccine appointments, unless they were in quarantine or feeling unwell.

"We either stop this virus now, or we live like Sydney for the rest of this year," he said.

"They are the choices that we face."

Young people have been vulnerable to Canberra's outbreak of the Delta strain, with 43 per cent of cases in people under 17 and 46 per cent in people aged 18 to 44.

A packed nightclub and several primary and high schools are among more than 240 exposure sites.

The jump in people in their 20s getting the AstraZeneca vaccine has aligned with almost 40 pharmacies joining the rollout.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Tuesday announced doctors and pharmacists had called for more AstraZeneca supply to meet the booming demand.

About 700 AstraZeneca doses were provided on Monday alone.

Fifteen pharmacies and nine general practices requested more doses with an extra 10,000 due to land in the territory.

"We do recognise for younger people it is a time of high anxiety," Ms Stephen-Smith said.

"We know that the Delta strain affects younger people more than the original strain of the novel coronavirus ... and it is making younger people sicker than other strains."

Ms Stephen-Smith encouraged young people to discuss with a doctor or pharmacist if AstraZeneca was right for them.

Australia's expert group on immunisation had advised Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for people under 60 because of the risk of a rare, but serious, blood clotting syndrome.

Young people can access AstraZeneca from 80 general practices and 37 pharmacies, but must have a conversation about the benefits and risks and provide informed consent.

"We are seeing Canberrans enthusiastic about getting vaccinated," Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Since last week, pharmacies have been allowed to administer doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 18 years and over.

It coincided with an outbreak of COVID-19 in Canberra, which had spread to83 cases on Thursday.

Jenna Ten, a pharmacist at Pharmacy on Petrie, estimated that on the days she had worked since lockdown, bookings for vaccines sat at about 40 to 50.

She said most of those bookings were people in their 20s.

Many of them "have done a lot of reading and research," she said. "I do have some people, just a minor percentage of the young, were quite worried about the side effects, especially the blood clots ... most of them, they're happy to go ahead to get it done," Ms Ten said.

Henry Skelly, 24, ANU student

Henry Skelly. Picture Miriam Webber

Henry Skelly. Picture Miriam Webber

Why did you come today?

I need to get vaccinated because I don't want to get coronavirus and Pfizer isn't really available. And then I think the chances of side effects of AstraZeneca are pretty low. So I'd rather get the vaccine, than risk getting Covid, which has some pretty nasty effects as well.

Did your decision to get vaccinated have to do with the current outbreak?

No, I was intending to come in. I was booked in somewhere else for a later appointment before the outbreak. But then I saw that Pharmacy on Petrie was available sooner, so I cancelled my other one and booked in here for today, which just happened to be when the outbreak occurred.

Are you worried about any of the potential side effects?

Like a little bit, but not really. I think, because it's like five in a million so that's pretty low. Yeah, it's like such a tiny chance that I'm not that concerned about it.

Are you hoping many other young people will start getting AstraZeneca?

I think everyone should try to get vaccinated. I hope that other young people aren't really put off because the chances are pretty low, and I think it's better to have everyone vaccinated than to have the virus break up community.

Ishir Mahajan, 20, ANU student

Ishir Mahajan. Picture: Miriam Webber

Ishir Mahajan. Picture: Miriam Webber

Why did you come to get vaccinated today?

I guess I just couldn't be bothered to wait for Pfizer, and I think like, it's pretty effective, at least from what I've read. And I think the benefits outweigh the risks as well for me.

Are you worried about any of the potential side effects?

Not really, because I have no family history of any like blood clots or anything, and I'm fairly healthy I reckon, so I should be okay.

Have you been talking to many of your friends at uni about getting AstraZeneca?

Yeah, I talked to a few friends. So one of my friends had already gotten it. And then my brother he's gotten it now as well. And my twin brother got it like a few days ago, and they were all fine.

Did you decide to come and get it with the current outbreak?

I was planning on getting it before the outbreak happened, and the outbreak happened so I decided I might as well go now.

Mae Kretschmer, 24, paralegal at the NDIS

Mae Kretschmer. Picture: Miriam Webber

Mae Kretschmer. Picture: Miriam Webber

Why did you come to get your AstraZeneca today?

Just with the cases going up, community cases here, thought: 'Just want to have at least one job as soon as possible.'

Had you planned to come and get AstraZeneca before this current outbreak?

I just thought I'd wait for Pfizer, but I ... always said if it [COVID-19] comes to Canberra, then I'll get AstraZeneca and seeing the case numbers today. I just was like, 'that's it.'

Are you worried about potential side effects at all?

Not particularly, I just feel like pretty much everything that we put in our body has side effects. And it [the risk] was so low, so [I'll] take it as it comes.

And have you been talking with many of your friends about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Yeah, definitely. And I think that was also a major - more and more of them getting AstraZeneca and being fine - helped me be like, well I'll do it too.

Alex Cicchini, 24, works in an office

Alex Cicchini. Picture: Miriam Webber

Alex Cicchini. Picture: Miriam Webber

Why did you come to get vaccinated today?

Just to stay safe, keep everyone around me safe, that's pretty much it really.

Were you motivated even more by the current outbreak?

I feel like it was the best time to do it, just in case, 'cause you never know. People moving around - you just never know, so just do it now.

Are you worried about any of the potential side effects?

A little bit, just don't want to get a cough because it's just annoying. But it's gonna get worse before it gets better so do what you've gotta do.

Ashley Ten, 19, and Annie Liu, 21, ANU students

Ashley Ten (left) and Annie Liu (right). Picture: Miriam Webber

Ashley Ten (left) and Annie Liu (right). Picture: Miriam Webber

Why did you come to get vaccinated today?

Annie: I think it will be good to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Ashley: Well, I think because we are gonna have to get it sooner or later. So since we have slots now, might as well get it sooner.

You just had your jab, how did it go?

Ashley: It's fine, just a really tiny pinch. I'm just not looking at it and it's over really quickly.

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This story Young people take up AstraZeneca as Canberra outbreak worsens first appeared on The Canberra Times.