The co-architect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, British vaccinology professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, has slammed the Australian government and health authorities for the god-awful vaccine communication that lead Aussies to avoid getting the safe, effective and abundant AstraZeneca vaccine in droves.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Gilbert said she agreed with the view that the government’s stirring of fear around AstraZeneca – deliberately or otherwise – could be of the greatest public health failings in many years.

“If it’s now possible to accelerate vaccination in Australia and save lives by getting people vaccinated quickly, then it won’t be the greatest public health disaster that the country’s ever seen,” she told the newspaper.

“But the concern is that if people have received the wrong message and are just too worried about going to get the vaccine now, that could really have very long term effects and we could see a lot of lives lost because of it.”

Basically, she reckons that if too many people turn their nose up at the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine and instead choose to wait months for Pfizer, then outbreaks like the one in Sydney will continue to needlessly and tragically take more lives.

After all, supplies of the imported Pfizer vaccine are extremely thin at the moment whereas the AstraZeneca vaccine is now being made in Melbourne, so there’s plenty to go around.

This whole debacle started when it emerged that an extremely rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine was blood clotting.

Not only did the government flip-flop between which age groups should and shouldn’t get the vaccine in the wake of these side effects, but the messaging was also just really unclear about the whole situation. It didn’t help that there were very public differences of opinion between the federal and state governments, plus other experts and health authorities.

“Public health messaging needs to be really clear and when it changes, it can be difficult for people to deal with and have effects that were not intended and that may be what’s happened in Australia,” Gilbert added.

The latest ATIGI advice is that all adults in Greater Sydney, where the outbreak is ongoing, should get the AstraZeneca jab as soon as possible.

Gilbert is a bit of a rockstar over in the UK. She actually got to work on the vaccine in January of 2020, after receiving an email about a new virus that had been spotted in China.

Last month at Wimbledon, the crowd even gave her a standing ovation, and rightfully so.

So when someone who literally helped save the world is willing to call out a severe failure in government communication on the other side of the world, it’s probably in our best interest to listen up.


All adult Aussies (yep, even if those of us under 40) are currently able to get the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine through a GP. Talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Alternatively, you can triple-check to see if you’re eligible for the Pfizer vaccine here.

The best vaccine is the first one you can get, and that’ll be our ticket out of this mess.

Image: Getty Images / Steve Parsons