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Australia will fast-track its Covid-19 vaccine booster program to as early as next week.
Health minister Greg Hunt said the approval for the third dose of Pfizer will likely be granted by mid next week with the booster then made available ‘immediately’.
Aged-care residents and frontline healthcare workers who received their vaccine at the start of the year will be first in line to receive the extra jab.
It comes as fears continue to grow over immunity to the virus begins to wane months after residents have received their second jab.
Australia will fast-track its Covid-19 vaccine booster program to as early as next week
Health minister Greg Hunt said the approval for the third dose of Pfizer will likely be granted by mid next week with the booster then made available ‘immediately
‘We’ve said the commencement date for aged-care in reach is the 8th of November, but indeed some facilities may be able to begin by the end of next week,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘And if we were to receive that approval by the end of next week, we will be in a position to start the general population on a booster as they come due.’
All Australians aged over 12 are likely to be offered Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, and may be required to have them in order to retain a vaccine passport.
Australians who have had two doses of Pfizer will get Pfizer for their booster. Those who had two doses of Moderna will get a third shot of Moderna.
Those who had two doses of AstraZeneca can be given either Pfizer or Moderna for their booster.
Residents who received their second dose of AstraZeneca after waiting eight weeks – instead of the recommended 12- have been told not to delay getting their booster.
NSW chair of the Royal Australian College of GPs Dr Charlotte Hespe said they should get the third dose six months after their last one.
‘If you did have your AstraZeneca at a timeframe of less than 12 weeks, please do try and make sure your booster is at six months rather than, perhaps, delaying it until 10 months; do not wait for your booster,’ she said.
Residents who received their second dose four to six weeks after their first one have a 55.1 per cent protection rate against symptomatic Covid-19.
The percentage increased to 59.9 per cent for people who waited eight weeks, and 81.3 per cent for people who waited 12 weeks.
Mr Hunt would not confirm whether or not Australians will need to prove they’ve had a third jab in order to travel internationally.
‘I will follow medical advice on that and I won’t speculate on passports. That is very much medical question with the science to flow over the coming months,’ he said.
It comes as Australia achieves the ‘key milestone’ of a 70 per cent double vaccination rate in over 16s.
Professor Kelly said he would wait for further scientific advice before deciding the timeframe between second and third doses.
‘All of the booster programs around the world have picked a time after the second dose of the vaccine, that has varied in some countries, so we will see what the advice is from ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation).’
All Australians aged over 12 are likely to be offered Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, and may be required to have them in order to retain a vaccine passport
Mr Hunt would not confirm whether or not Australians will need to prove they’ve had a third jab in order to travel internationally
Professor Kelly said priority groups in phases 1a and 1b of the vaccine rollout would be ‘first in line because they are now six or more months after the second dose.’
He said Israel’s booster shot program, which began in July, has shown that third doses are safe and effective in all age groups.
On October 8 Australia’s vaccine scientists recommended Covid vaccine booster shots for 500,000 severely immunocompromised Australians over 12.
They are being given a third shot between two and six months after their second dose.
The boosters are either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, even if their initial jabs were AstraZeneca.
Some scientists forecast people will need a Covid vaccine once a year as the virus continues to mutate – but Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he hoped three doses would give lifelong immunity.
‘A third dose is likely to be last dose that you have to do [in your life],’ he said earlier this month.
ATAGI said it does not recommend subsequent doses beyond the third dose at this time.