Two more Australians, this time in their forties, have died from the rare blood clotting disease known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or (TTS).
This brings Australia's total to 87 cases with 6 confirmed deaths from a vaccine pool of 6.1 million doses.
The 44 year-old Tasmanian man and 48 year-old Victorian woman both died after receiving their first dose AstraZeneca, which is considered to be higher risk than the second.
A spokesperson from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) confirmed the incidents in a report earlier in the week.
"Sadly, this week we were notified that two confirmed cases of TTS after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine were fatal. The TGA extends its sincerest condolences to their families and loved ones.”
Also known as Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), TTS is normally considered to be an extremely rare blood clotting condition observed in people who have received an adenoviral vector Covid vaccine such as AstraZeneca or Johnson&Johnson.
TTS is triggered by the body’s immune response to the vaccine, and is not related to other blood clot risks such as air travel or birth control medications. TTS, while much rarer than ordinary blood clots, is considered to have a significantly higher fatality rate. The World Health Organisation puts the risk of developing TTS at anywhere between 0.5 – 6.8 per 100,000.
The distribution of AstraZeneca is currently subject to caution for younger Australians after a review of advice by an independent group. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of leaning on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in order to change their advice for younger Australians to expedite the vaccine roll-out in Australia. He later clarified that he ‘cannot control what ATAGI advises’ despite his admitted constant appeals to the group.
Pfizer is currently recommended as the preferred vaccine for those between 16-60, but with the two largest states in Australia under strict lockdown, pressure has been put on Scott Morrison to speed up vaccinations.
Adults under 60 can still apply for AstraZeneca if they wish.
“It’s for [ATAGI] to now constantly reconsider how that balance of risk applies and provide their advice accordingly. The situation Australia faces should be managed on the balance of risk as ATAGI has said to me in the past,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in response to questions regarding his ‘constant’ appeals to the ATAGI.
The ATAGI advise the Minister for Health on matters relating to the National Immunisation Program and a range of broader immunisation issues.
They issued a statement on June 17 stating that Pfizer was the preferred vaccine for those between 16-60.
"The recommendation is revised due to a higher risk and observed severity of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine observed in Australia in the 50-59 year old age group than reported internationally and initially estimated in Australia.”