A further 3.75 million Australians are eligible to get a Covid booster jab from Tuesday, after the waiting time after a second dose was slashed to just four months.
This means anyone who got their second jab on September 4 or earlier can now get a booster, and should contact their GP or local pharmacy to organise an appointment.
The decision was made back in December to change the rules on January 4 to help give people a fighting change at beating off the Omicron variant, thought to make up the majority of the country’s new cases.
A record 36,742 cases were recorded across the country on Monday, with the likely number thought to be much higher.
Research from UNSW found that while two jabs of a Covid vaccine are not as effective at tackling Omicron than other variants, a booster shot can provide as much as 98.2 per cent protection against severe infection and 86.2 against symptomatic infection.
The gap for a booster will shorten further to three months from January 31, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
HOW CAN I GET A BOOSTER?
Covid boosters are being administered at GP clinics, pharmacies and other types of health care provides.
Click here to scan the full list and book your appointment.
Australians can opt for either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs, regardless of what type of vaccine they’ve received previously.
You must be fully-vaccinated, ie two doses of one jab, to be eligible for a booster.
A booster is different from a third dose, which is recommended for severely immunocompromised people, and is a different dosage to a booster.
‘On the basis of advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, it’s no surprise we will be bringing forward the eligibility for the booster dose to four months as of 4 January,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘It will be expanded again on the 31st of January to three months and that will take it out to 16 million Australians who will be eligible at that point in time.
‘As we have said all along, eligibility is the beginning of access, it doesn’t mean that somebody is overdue the very day they become eligible.’
Professor Kelly said receiving one of the first two doses of a Covid vaccine was still the most important priority for the vaccination program.
‘We have seen a rise in intensive care patients in New South Wales in recent days, almost all of those have been unvaccinated,’ Prof Kelly said.
Anyone who got their second Covid vaccine four months ago – so on September 4 or earlier – can now get a booster (pictured, a Pfizer vaccine is given out in Sydney)
He said the reasons for bringing forward the booster dosing was to protect those most at risk of severe disease and because, based on international advice, protection from two doses of a Covid vaccine began to wane over time.
‘I will stress, just because you get to three months or five months or six months, it doesn’t mean that you immediately that day lose your protection. That is not the case,’ Prof Kelly said.
‘It does decrease over time. It remains in place for severe infection but it is diminished for Omicron compared with Delta.
‘Again, with the booster, it [protection] goes back towards the same levels as Delta. It will be an important and is already becoming an important part of our control of the current Omicron wave in Australia.’
A record 36,742 cases were recorded across the country on Monday, with the likely number thought to be much higher, as Australians race to get their booster jabs (pictured, a vaccine queue on Sydney’s Pitt Street)
Professor Kelly urged vulnerable people – the elderly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those with chronic disease and those who are immunocompromised – to come forward first for booster jabs.
‘And just a real shoutout to anyone who is pregnant or is planning to be pregnant – these vaccines are very safe in pregnancy,’ Prof Kelly said.
‘We know now very clearly that both the woman who is pregnant and their unborn child, they are both at risk from this virus and vaccine does protect and is safe.’
Prof Kelly said the delay in switching to three months for a booster after a second vaccine jab was an implementation issue.
‘Throughout this vaccination schedule, there’s a sense that everyone wants to be vaccinated on the first day an announcement is made, that is not necessary and indeed is not possible.’
The planned vaccination of 5-11-year-olds beginning on January 5 was not a factor in the delay of the announcement regarding boosters, Mr Hunt said.
Prof Kelly said there were now 10,000 places in Australia people could get the third jab.
‘We have our GPs, our pharmacists, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, they’re all available, they’ll all do booster shots, they’re already doing booster shots and that will roll out as we go,’ he said.
Mr Hunt claimed extra supplies ordered of Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax would accommodate a fourth or even fifth booster for the Australian population in 2022.
AUSTRALIA’S NEW COVID RULES
Who should get a PCR test? Anyone who has symptoms or who has got a positive rapid antigen test
New definition of close contact: Someone who has spent at least four hours in a household or a care facility with a positive case. Workplaces do not count.
New isolation period: Positive people and close contacts must isolate for seven days or 10 in SA. This is regardless of whether the close contacts test negative or not
Timing: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT implemented the new rules on New Year’s Eve.
Tasmania followed on January 1 while the Northern Territory and Western Australia will not adopt the scheme until they get more Covid cases in the weeks ahead.