Shorter AstraZeneca dose range to speed up Canberra’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout

Like many Canberrans, Kate Balharrie just wants the pandemic to be over so she can reconnect with her family and go abroad for a long-awaited vacation.

She believes that vaccination is the fastest way to achieve it and therefore welcomed the ACT Government’s release of new advice with a shorter interval between AstraZeneca doses.

This was based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) that the standard 12-week interval between the first and second dose be reduced to between four and eight weeks during significant outbreaks.

As more than 95 percent of Canberrans over the age of 70 have already received their first dose, Monday’s announcement will mostly affect younger people who are last in line to be vaccinated.

For Mrs Balharrie, it immediately meant rebooking her second dose of AstraZeneca and speeding up her appointment by a month.

While she had the freedom to do this in the past through her doctor, she was waiting for official advice from the ACT government.

The 25-year-old said she would rather get her double dose as soon as possible, although a smaller interval could reduce the vaccine’s effect.

“I trust what the ACT government advises.

“This means that we will hopefully reach that goal of between 70 and 80 percent, and I want to be a part of that.

“I just really want boundaries to be open and that this pandemic should be a thing of the past, and the only thing I can really do about it is get vaccinated.”

Mrs Balharrie said she would go to Ballarat to visit her three-month-old niece Sadie as soon as she was allowed.

“I managed to see her very shortly before the borders closed, but she has already changed so much and I miss her already,” she said.

“I would also love to have the freedom to travel again and spend a vacation abroad.”

A lady with blonde hair in her twenties is sitting on the balcony with a book.
Kate Balharrie says vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic. (

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

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New advice an ‘incentive’ for young people to get AstraZeneca

Ms Balharie believed that the shorter interval between doses would act as an “incentive” for young people to get the AstraZeneca vaccine rather than wait for their Pfizer bookings.

“A lot of young people were thinking about waiting for Pfizer, and then we might be completely vaccinated faster [than with a 12-week wait time in between AstraZeneca doses]. But now we are being fully vaccinated faster than we first thought. “

A man wearing a suit points
ACT chief Andrew Barr says it is better to be vaccinated than to wait 12 weeks because of the current outbreak. (

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

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ACT Secretary Andrew Barr said the new council would help roll out the vaccination program faster.

“We are already seeing evidence through both our bookings and those that have been delivered through doctors and pharmacies that people are bringing forward their second dose of AstraZeneca,” he said.

“Everyone who gets it, of course, gets their full vaccination week ahead of when otherwise they would have done it.

“The best vaccine is the one you can get tonight.

Booster shots program is still being shot out

But there are scarce details of booster shots that are needed when the effectiveness of vaccines begins to wear off.

And Mr Barr said he did not yet know whether those who chose to bring their second dose of AstraZeneca – therefore slightly less protected in the longer term than those who waited a full 12 weeks – would be the first cabs out of range.

“The Booster program is an element of both the National Cabinet and the National Health Department’s planning,” he said.

“I have understood that securing the vaccines to do so has happened and that it will be a rolling program throughout 2022.

“There has been some discussion among health authorities regarding the fact that those who had the AstraZeneca vaccine had an MRNA booster, but I do not have the details about that today.

“It will be a decision informed by groups like ATAGI and the AHPPC and communicated to the nation in good time.”

Vanessa Johnston speaks at a press conference.  She looks very serious.
ACT Deputy Director of Health Vanessa Johnston says you do not know when you will come in contact with a person with COVID-19.(

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

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ACT Deputy Head of Health Manager Dr. Vanessa Johnston said booster shots would be rolled out at a later date.

“Booster shots are coming down the line for all of us regardless of the distance between these doses or regardless of the vaccine we received in 2021,” she said.

Dr. Johnston also reiterated that health authorities advised against waiting 12 weeks between doses because ACT was in the midst of “a very active and developing outbreak”.

“All the clinical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine showed that three-month intervals provide the most optimal protection against any symptomatic infection,” she said.

But she said a dose or a reduced interval between doses provided better protection against serious illness and hospitalization.

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