HEALTH workers have urged over 50s to continue booking in for shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after advice for younger people changed.
Health authorities announced a suspension of AstraZeneca shots for people under 50 last week, over concerns about an extremely rare blood clot side effect.
Clinics say many people over 50 have been contacting them, confused about whether they should still receive the vaccine.
Health workers said people over 50 could be confident the vaccine was safe for them.
The advice excluded those who had already received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine without serious side effects, who were told they could book in for a second shot.
Spring Gully Respiratory Clinic director Ewa Piejko said lots of older people were confused as to whether they should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Dr Piejko said the confusion added to receptionists and GPs' workload, as they spent extra time discussing people's concerns around the vaccine.
The Spring Gully clinic began offering vaccinations last week, with a capacity of about 500 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine per week.
Dr Piejko urged those over 50 who were concerned about receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine to remember that it was still very safe.
She said older people were less likely to have even mild side effects with the vaccine.
"The vaccine has still got a very good safety record. The risk of severe adverse event is extremely small compared to the risk of disease," Dr Piejko said.
"At the moment there's not a lot of community spread, but we also know that that can change in a few days."
Dr Piejko said the clinic had been forced to delay a few appointments initially scheduled for last Saturday, but most of those booked in were over 50.
She said there was a small reduction in the clinic's appointments over the next few weeks, but the main target was those over 50 currently.
Dr Piejko said those with a chronic disease at a higher risk of COVID-19 had been advised to see their own GP to discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
Bendigo Community Health Services Primary Health Care Services director Graem Kelly said the change in advice had a minimal effect on the BCHS vaccine clinic, as it had only just begun and was currently targetting people over 50.
Mr Kelly said BCHS began offering vaccinations at Eaglehawk last week, where it would conduct the majority of its program.
He said vaccinations would begin at the central Bendigo site next week, then at Kangaroo Flat the week after. These two sites are expected to run on alternate weeks for as long as there is demand.
Mr Kelly urged anyone with concerns about the vaccine to speak to their GP.
He said BCHS asked people to contact them for the latest information if they were concerned, rather than listen to hearsay or "dodgy websites".
A Loddon Mallee Public Health Unit spokesperson confirmed it had paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 to people under 50.
The spokesperson said it was continuing vaccination rollout, prioritising the Pfizer vaccine for those aged under 50.
The Public Health Unit is responsible for the Bendigo Health Vaccine Hub, which has been vaccinating state aged care residents and staff, and other priority groups.
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It began vaccinations for some healthcare workers in phase 1b of the rollout last week.
The hub has administered more than 5100 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, to members of groups who were part of both phase 1a and 1b of the rollout.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia chief executive Peta Rutherford said the association was hearing "little rumblings" from rural general practitioners about the vaccine rollout.
Ms Rutherford said most vaccine recipients were over 70 still, so well within the advice range.
But Ms Rutherford said doctors were still receiving more questions from patients about what the advice would mean for them.
Advice and recommendations about the AstraZeneca #COVID19 vaccine has changed for people under 50 years old.— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) April 11, 2021
Talk to your health professional if you're booked in for your first dose of AstraZeneca & you're under 50.
Updated advice here: https://t.co/yyqs9uV8wMpic.twitter.com/LC2anM7jVT
But she said some challenges were to be expected with a worldwide vaccination program.
Ms Rutherford said the RDAA was waiting to see what the recalibrated vaccination program would mean for rural and remote Australia.
She said the Pfizer vaccine had only been minimally distributed in rural and remote Australia, because of the logistical issues associated with storage temperatures.
"The important thing now will be to give really clear information to our communities once the updated program is available, and get the vaccine out to them as quickly as possible," Ms Rutherford said.
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