The S & P / ASX 200 index settled 0.1 percent lower at 6,995.2 points at the close of trading, braking on its longest winning streak since early December.
Australia on Thursday made a policy change to recommend the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for people over 50 amid concerns about a link to the risk of blood clots with AstraZeneca injections.
“It seems that Pandora’s box has been opened with the AstraZeneca news,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.
“With the government declaring vaccines not compulsory, societal divisions are now running smoothly and the negative news is getting louder.”
Health shares fell 0.8 percent with the giant sector
, which has a contract to manufacture 50 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine domestically, fell by 1.4 percent.
Energy stocks fell 0.7 percent after US oil prices fell overnight. Woodside Petroleum and Santos fell by 1.4 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
However, not all commodities performed poorly. Gold stocks rose 1.7 percent for the fifth straight session, as gold prices hit the highest overnight level since February.
Technology shares rose 0.7 percent, reflecting the strong move on Wall Street overnight.
The Afterpay heavyweight index hit a high in more than a month after the buy-now-pay-later market leader said his stake in fast-growing US business had risen to 91 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S & P / NZX 50 index closed 0.5 percent lower at 12,574.4.