age-old months-old debate: why should I get the AstraZeneca jab right now when I can wait a few months for Pfizer? Chances are you’re probably having this very debate with a mate or family member right now. Here’s how you can educate them.
Right now, all adults can go and get the AstraZeneca shot from a GP, while those of us who are even eligible for the Pfizer shot typically have to wait months for an appointment.
If you’re in a part of Australia dealing with a Delta outbreak, that’s simply too long to wait when both vaccines are safe, highly effective, and perfectly good for everyone who doesn’t have a blood clot risk.
The top government body that advises on vaccines (ATAGI) says that any vaccine is far more preferable to the risks of getting COVID-19, while 14 senior medical officials, including the guy who invented the HPV vaccine, have recently penned a statement urging people to get jabbed or risk “death by Delta”.
We should stress that we are but humble journalists, and not doctors. If you have any big questions relating to your own medical condition, you should defs consult a GP before making any decisions. But the following is still a conversation that needs to be had.
The Delta variant is fucking over young people
The Delta strain of COVID-19 is no joke. It’s sending more young people to the hospital than ever before, and in Sydney one man in his 20s and one woman in her 30s have both died after contracting the virus.
“I’ve seen more and more young people in ICU this week,” one doctor working in an intensive care unit told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“My advice would be to get whatever you can as soon as you can.”
The one common denominator among every single person in NSW in the ICU is that none of them have had two doses of a COVID vaccine.
No, Dr Swan, they are not guinea pigs. I vaccinated during measles in Chad in 2005. Rapid vaccination during an epidemic is part of epidemic control. And it’s what every other country has done with #covid19 #auspol #astrazeneca #pfizer Restrictions plus rapid vaccines works https://t.co/sWn1o3bCOO
— Dr. Nick Coatsworth (@nick_coatsworth) August 2, 2021
We’ll get our freedom back
Firstly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that once vaccination coverage hits 70% of the population, lockdown restrictions will begin to ease for good.
“When we get our vaccination levels a lot higher […] I think there should be those advantages to those who have done that and taken the opportunity,” Morrison recently told a voter.
There’ll also be “special rules” regarding quarantining for people who are fully vaxxed, and international travel is expected to restart again once we hit 80% vaccination coverage, which is a pretty bloody huge incentive after almost two years of no overseas trips.
In the case of Sydney, which is currently in Australia’s hardest lockdown, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the current, super-strict lockdown rules can begin to be eased once 50-60% of adults are fully vaccinated.
You can literally get AstraZeneca right now
Anyone over the age of 18 can currently go to a GP and ask for the AstraZeneca vaccine. You’ll need to fill out an indemnity form and have a chat about your medical condition, but otherwise the process should be pretty hassle-free.
Meanwhile, most people aren’t even eligible for Pfizer, and for those of us who are, the queue to book an appointment goes for months. That’s time people in locked-down areas or at risk of Delta simply don’t have.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being made in Melbourne, which is why supplies are so plentiful.
The Pfizer shot, meanwhile, used a technology that Australia doesn’t even have the facilities to produce, so we’re dependent on shipments from Europe which has limited supplies.
AstraZeneca is an effective vaccine
The question about which vaccine offeres better protection kind of misses the point because the best vaccine is the one you can get soonest. Both vaccines cause roughly a 90% reduction in the likelihood of death when it comes to the Delta variant which is currently spreading around Australia.
But, to answer the question anyway: initial trials found Pfizer had an efficacy of 95% whereas AstraZeneca had an efficacy of around 70%. According to one real-world study, both vaccines reduce the chance of being infected with COVID-19 by 70%, which is still great. If we look at the Delta variant specifically, these figures are broadly similar similar when it comes to preventing serious symptoms.
All this means is that both vaccines will massively lower your chances of getting COVID-19, and even if you do end up contracting the virus, your symptoms will be much milder. This also means you’re less likely to end up with long COVID.
You’ll be far less likely to pass it on to your family
Getting vaccinated is not just about your own health; it’s about your family’s health, too.
If you can decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19 by 70 or 80%, you massively decrease your chances of bring it home and passing it on to more vulnerable loved ones.
Our brains struggle to comprehend risk and we need to overcome this
By now everyone’s aware that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked with a very small chance of developing a rare blood clotting disorder.
Early Aussie data estimates that 3.1 in every 100,000 AstraZeneca recipients under 50 could develop thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome, which can usually be treated. That’s lower than the roughly 6 in 100,000 odds that Aussies in the same age group have of dying in a car accident.
As one Western Sydney doctor put it, if you were to vaccinate everyone in the MCG with the AstraZeneca shot, just three people would develop blood clots, which can be quite easily treated.
“On on the balance of statistics, no-one would die from that dose. You’d actually need to vaccinate ten Melbourne Cricket Grounds to find one patient who would die as a complication from clotting,” he added.
But let’s say if everyone in the MCG was unvaccinated and got COVID-19. You could expect 400 of them to die. If we multiply that by ten, as we did with the previous hypothetical, that would equate to 4,000 deaths from the virus, and around 100,000 people in the ICU.
Overseas data for all age groups puts the AstraZeneca blood clotting risk even lower at 1 in 250,000 people. Compare that to everyday medications like the pill, where different blood clotting side effects affect roughly 1 in every 2,500 people. That’s not a typo.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine has a lower risk than literally anything a doctor has ever done to you,” Australia’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
He himself got his second AstraZeneca jab back in June.
Why the rush to get vaccinated?
We’re dealing with the Delta strain of COVID-19, which is the most severe strain yet! Suppressing the spread won’t be as easy as it was last year (if we can even call last year “easy”).
Dr Coatsworth made things pretty clear to P.TV: “If you’re not immune and you come into contact with someone who’s got it, you should assume that you’ll get COVID.”
Look at the rest of the world. Other countries are leaving us in their dust, managing to open up again while also keeping death rates almost flat, and it’s all because they’re getting vaccinated faster than us.
While they’re reopening clubs and stadiums, more and more Aussies are finding themselves stuck at home and, tragically, in the ICU. There’s your call to action.
Okay, you’ve convinced me: what now?
Getting the AstraZeneca jab is as simple as contacting a GP, who will check to make sure it’s right for you.
You can even use the government’s vaccine eligibility checker to find a list of clinics near you that are offering the jab. Just remember to tick the box saying you’re happy to have the conversation about getting AZ.