Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the state’s mass vaccination hubs open to people aged over 70.
Professor Sutton, who is aged in his 50s, says he was excited to receive the jab.
“I know it will protect me – and with the second dose in 12 weeks time – that will be really substantial protection,” he told reporters at the Royal Exhibition Building on Wednesday.
“You do it for yourself, but we’re doing it for everyone ultimately and it’s going to make Australia a different place.”
It’s hoped Professor Sutton’s vaccination will boost public confidence in Victoria in the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to a very rare blood clotting disorder.
Earlier this month, the national vaccine advisory group recommended people under the age of 50 get the Pfizer vaccine instead.
Professor Sutton reiterated the risk of blood clots was incredibly low and urged anyone eligible for the jab to “step up” at the state’s mass vaccination centres, which opened on Wednesday.
“You are more likely to get a clot at whatever age you are on a long-haul flight to Europe or North America than getting this jab,” he said.
“It’s the risk we accept because it’s really small.”
The Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Geelong’s former Ford factory will provide AstraZeneca shots for anyone over 70 with or without bookings as part of phase 1a and 1b of the national rollout.
Victoria has resumed its rollout of the AstraZeneca shot to the over 50s after a pause on 9 April. Patients will be required to sign a consent form outlining the risks of getting the vaccine.
The state is receiving about 14,000 Pfizer doses per week, which are being sent to hospital vaccination hubs. It is hoped a further 10,000 doses will soon be made available by the federal government each week.
Meanwhile, the Victorian government announced it will spend $50 million to develop and manufacture cutting-edge mRNA vaccines – including the Pfizer version – in the state.
The mRNA vaccine technology can be manufactured quickly, cheaply, and safely, and forms the basis of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Twelve months ago would have been the best time to have done this, but the next best time is right now,” Acting Premier James Merlino said on Wednesday.
Mr Merlino said he was well aware of the challenges of securing supplies of vaccines internationally and he expected onshore development to take at least a year.
“We know the benefits of onshore manufacturing, and we know the benefits of this technology,” he said.
The money will be spent in partnerships with universities and medical manufacturers over the next two years, and it’s hoped mRNA manufacturing capabilities will be established in Melbourne.