Australia brings forward booster dose amid Omicron fear

Sydney, Australia, Dec 24 (EFE).- Australians, who received their primary doses of Covid-19 vaccines four months ago, can have the booster shots from Jan.4, the government said Friday, in a significant decision to advance the booster course amid the Omicron variant fear.

Union Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government took the decision on the expert medical advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI).

It will come into effect from Jan.4 next year.

The expert group made its recommendations after monitoring the characteristics of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant.

The ATAGI also considered the emerging data on the need, potential benefits, and optimal timing of a vaccine booster dose to prevent COVID-19 due to this variant.

“The move to reduce the interval between a person’s primary course of vaccination and their booster dose from five months to four months will see approximately 7.5 million Australians eligible for their booster dose as of Jan.4,” Hunt said.

The health minister said the government would further bring forward, as of Jan.31, the interval for eligibility to three months, which will mean that more than 16 million people will be eligible for their booster on Feb.1.

Hunt said Australia was one of the first countries to commence a whole of population Covid-19 booster program.

So far, approximately two million of the 25 million Australians have received a booster dose over recent weeks, he said.

Australia is already one of the most vaccinated countries.

About 91 percent of Australians aged 16 and over have completed their primary vaccination course.

And more than 72 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 15 have done so.

“Advice to the government from ATAGI indicates that further bringing forward booster doses is likely to increase protection against infection with the Omicron variant based on international and Australian data observed over recent weeks,” Hunt said.

He said early data suggested the risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death due to the Omicron variant was far less than Delta or other variants.

He said advancing booster doses and increasing public health and social measures, like indoor mask-wearing and social distancing, would slow down the spread and impact of the new variant.

With a rapid increase in infections in recent weeks, Australia has accumulated more than 265,000 infections, including 2,162 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic. EFE


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