Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, says there is no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots, declaring that the rollout would continue without delay, despite some European countries halting their programs while any potential link is investigated.

But Australia’s sole vaccine manufacturer, CSL, told Guardian Australia it was in talks with the government about the possibility of producing alternative vaccines.

“While CSL remains open to discussions about manufacture of alternative Covid-19 vaccines, our resources are fully committed to the manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said CSL’s chief scientific officer, Dr Andrew Nash.

“CSL does not have the current capacity to manufacture mRNA vaccines but we have engaged with government in relation to future possibilities.”

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines – the latter of which is the only other vaccine approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Benefits of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk, says EMA

Health authorities in countries including France, Italy, Netherlands and Norway have halted rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine while reports of blood clots in people who have received doses are investigated.

On Tuesday, Kelly joined the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in defending the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying there was no evidence the Oxford University-linked vaccine caused blood clots.

“I would make it very clear that here in Australia, safety is our first priority, and in any large vaccine rollout we do expect to see unusual events and we monitor very closely and carefully for those, but this does not mean that an event that happens after vaccination has been given is indeed due to that vaccine,” Kelly said.

“We do always take it seriously, we do investigate, but in this situation I can absolutely say I remain confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, that it is safe,” he said.

Kelly’s comments follow a call from the Nationals senator Matt Canavan for the rollout in Australia to be halted.

“I don’t see how we could continue when basically the whole of Europe is worried about this vaccine,” Canavan said.

Scott Morrison and the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said they phoned Canavan immediately after he made his comments on Tuesday morning to “discuss” his position, distancing the government from any doubts expressed about the TGA’s assessment that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe.

“The government clearly, unequivocally, absolutely supports the AstraZeneca rollout,” Hunt told parliament, while noting that he expected Australia’s 200,000th vaccine dose to be administered by the end of Tuesday.

Locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines are due to begin being distributed next week.

Australia has bought about 54m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – 50m which will be produced in Melbourne by CSL – and 20m imported doses of the Pfizer jab.

Doctors left ‘ill-equipped’ for Australia’s Covid vaccine rollout criticise delayed launch of booking site

Labor’s health spokesman, Mark Butler, lashed Canavan, while also expressing concerns about the medical industry’s frustrations, revealed by the Guardian, that the vaccine booking website promised by the government has not been launched, six days out from the jab being available to GPs.

“This is utterly remarkable and irresponsible,” Butler said of the delayed booking website.

Phase 1b of the rollout is set to begin on Monday, with about 6.14 million Australians becoming eligible for the jab.

The Nationals leader, Michael McCormack, also called out his party colleague’s comments, insisting they didn’t represent his or the government’s views.

On Tuesday afternoon the TGA released a statement saying it was in “close and frequent communication” with the European Medicines Agency – the body investigating the blood clot concerns – and noted that it would reveal the outcome of its investigation on Thursday.

After a handful of reports of blood clots in people vaccinated, and also of a rarer condition called thrombocytopenia, in which people do not make enough platelets, countries including the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark announced they would halt their rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Monday Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, among others, also announced they would pause their rollouts. The UK continues to administer the vaccine, and the World Health Organization has backed the safety of the AstraZeneca jab.

The TGA also noted that blood clots are common among the general population, and that on an average day, 50 Australians experienced blood clots in veins. There have been 37 reports of blood clots in the roughly 17 million people across the UK and Europe who have so far received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

AstraZeneca said “the safety of all is our first priority” and that it looked forward to the EMA’s assessment.

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