NSW and Victoria’s residents can now get their COVID-19 booster shot sooner, with both the governments shortening the interval from the second dose down to three months at state hubs.
Victoria recorded 20,769 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths on Wednesday, 10,726 from PCR tests and 10,043 from rapid antigen tests.
Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said public health teams recommended the wait time between COVID-19 second dose and booster be reduced from four months to three “effective immediately”.
“The total number of people eligible increases substantially by two million Victorians and it will help us get more people third-dose boosted quicker than would otherwise be the case,”explained Mr Andrews.
Meanwhile, 20 Australian Defence Force personnel will arrive in Victoria on Thursday, to help with driving ambulances and freeing up paramedics.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the extra support on Wednesday after Mr Andrews requested assistance.
There are also 12 Australian Public Service workers helping Victorian authorities to take triple zero calls, due to rising demand.
It comes as a “code brown” declaration for Victoria’s hospital system that came into effect at midday on Wednesday.
There are 1173 Victorians in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 21 on Tuesday’s figures, of which 125 are in ICU and 42 on ventilation.
Walk-up vaccinations will be available and are encouraged at a number of state-run centres, including:
• Royal Exhibition Building (walk-up access available 8:00am to 8:00pm daily during the blitz)
• Latrobe University Bundoora (walk-up 8:00am to 8:00pm)
• Sandown Racecourse (walk-up 9:00am to 6:30pm Saturday and Sunday)
• Dandenong Plaza (walk-up 9:00am to 5:00pm Saturday and Sunday)
• Frankston’s Bayside Centre (walk-up 9:30am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday)
• Sunshine Hospital (walk-up 8:00am to 8:00pm)
• Bendigo Vaccination Hub (walk-up 9:00am to 8:00pm)
• Ballarat Mercure (walk-up 8:30am to 3:00pm Sunday)
Authorities are expecting hospital admissions from the current Omicron wave to skyrocket in the coming weeks, prompting the code brown alert to ensure hospitals can postpone or defer less urgent care.
New South Wales
The four-month interval was to drop to three months on January 31, in line with federal government rules for GPs and pharmacies.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said, “As we are clearly seeing boosters are key to keeping yourself, your friends and your family safe.”
The state’s clinics can provide 250,000 shots a week but delivered about 180,000 last week.
“It’s awful for us to see our bookings in our clinics go begging,” NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said.
Triple-dosed adults now sit at 27.8 per cent, despite more than half of adults being eligible.
Some 300,000 people are currently isolating with COVID-19, while another 550,000 have been infected in the past four weeks.
Adults can proceed with their booster schedule four to six weeks after being infected with COVID-19, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
Vaccine body ATAGI is currently working through official guidance.
It comes as the deaths of 20 men and 12 women were reported on Wednesday, including three aged in their 40s and 18 people aged over 80.
One in four deaths were of unvaccinated people, while only five people had had a booster.
“No matter where you are in NSW or indeed Australia, you are vulnerable,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
The number of COVID-19 hospital patients rose 13 to 2863, with ICU numbers up eight to 217.
The health minister said half of those in ICU were unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated people make up only five per cent of the NSW adult population, and 18 per cent of the total population.
Infections appear to have stabilised, with 32,297 new cases including 12,450 from rapid antigen tests.
It’s the fourth straight day under 35,000.
The NSW Labor opposition wants schools turned into vaccination hubs, a plan to ensure schools remain operational when teachers get sick, and advice for families in multiple languages.
NSW and Victoria are due to present a united schooling plan to the national cabinet on Thursday.