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Debunked: A claim that Australian students were 'accidentally' vaccinated is missing context

An “error” led to around 160 students receiving the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine,.

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A MISLEADING VIDEO clip about a small group of students in Australia being “accidentally vaccinated” against Covid-19 has been shared on Facebook.

The caption on the video suggests that the teenagers were vaccinated by accident and that this fact is being dismissed by a Health Minister. However, it is missing some crucial context.

The incident concerned is based on an “error” at a fee-paying school in New South Wales, where more students than planned received a Covid-19 vaccine. But this is not the same as those children being vaccinated by mistake.

The claim is also missing contextual information, in particular the fact that Australia’s vaccine rollout has been relatively slow compared to other countries. 

Let’s take a closer look.

The claim 

Facebook Aus video Facebook post.

A Facebook post recently shared a clip of a New South Wales Ministry of Health press briefing from 7 July.

The post containing this clip had over 440 likes, 240 comments and had been viewed around 11,000 times at the time of publication.

The clip in question was taken from the Guardian. The caption on the post says: “163 children ‘accidentally’ injected with the covid vaccine in Australia, minister says ‘so what, move on’!”

In the video, a reporter asks if the fact that the ministry “accidentally vaccinated about 160 Joeys’ Boys” could be damaging to the Australian public’s perception of the vaccine rollout.

The New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard responded: “The school intended it well, there was a mistake and so what? It’s happened out of a million vaccinations; move on.”

The evidence 

Problematically, the clip does not include details as to how and why these students were vaccinated.

Australian media reported last week that students at the fee-paying St Joseph’s College in New South Wales received their first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in May.

The Australian reported that the school, also known as ‘Joeys’, had inquired in May about vaccinating students as many of them were from remote, regional and Indigenous communities.

At the moment, Aboriginal people aged 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Australia. Anyone aged over 40 is also eligible for the Pfizer jab, as are certain cohorts aged 16 to 39. 

People aged 18-39 can also opt in to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It was agreed that Aboriginal students at the school would be vaccinated through a State vaccination hub, the Australian reported. But more than 160 boarding students in year 12 (who are generally aged 16-17) were also vaccinated “through an error”. 

The reporter in the video who describes the “accidental” process that saw those additional students being vaccinated does not mean they were jabbed through misleading or sinister means.

The intention of their language is to say that those students received a vaccine when they weren’t in the eligible cohort.

This was a particular concern because Australia’s vaccine rollout has been going at a slower pace compared to some other countries.

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Vaccination progress

As of Tuesday this week, fewer than 12% of people aged 16 and older had been fully vaccinated.

The country uses the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, with the former primarily recommended for adults aged over 60 following rare blood clot concerns, although those aged 18 to 59 can also receive the vaccine with informed consent of the risks and benefits.

Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for people aged 18 to 59.

The country’s prime minister Scott Morrison recently blamed the country’s slow rollout on “very cautious” decisions by immunisation advisory experts around the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people.

The country’s rollout began in late February, putting it about two months behind many other countries, including Ireland.

Much like in Ireland, the expert advice around the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has changed over time as more evidence emerges and the Covid-19 situation changes. 

The supply of Pfizer vaccines is also constrained in Australia, but AstraZeneca is relatively easier to access. This is an additional reason why young students receiving jabs ahead of people in eligible categories made headlines last week.

The video clip shared online has been taken out of context of the situation involving an “error” with some student vaccinations and the wider context of Australia’s vaccine rollout.

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

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