Australians are being encouraged to get a booster dose ahead of an expected future wave of COVID-19 as cases begin to increase across the country, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly says.
The federal government has ticked off on a winter plan alongside states and territories as the colder weather heralds a COVID spike and a flu season which Australia hasn’t seen in the past two years.
Dr Kelly says more Australians need to get their third shot as booster rates stall.
Around one in three people who are eligible for their booster have not yet had their third shot, Commonwealth health data shows.
“Quite a lot of people have had COVID this year, I think there is some uncertainty or complacency about, ‘oh look I’ve had Omicron, it wasn’t that bad and now I’m protected’,” Dr Kelly told the ABC.
“Those are partially true statements but having a booster is still really important. It does give extra protection against severe disease (and) there is also increasing evidence that it protects against long COVID.”
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is reviewing whether a fourth dose will be needed in vulnerable populations ahead of winter.
ATAGI is also reviewing when children will be able to get their booster shot.
Rules around isolation for close contacts are also being reviewed and are expected to be eased.
Despite an uptick in cases, New Zealand’s prime minister says the border will not close to its trans-Tasman neighbours again after borders open to Australia on April 12.
Jacinda Ardern says borders can remain open because New Zealand is coming off the back of its first wave and it is able to safely manage the border reopening,
“The time when New Zealand and Australia had our trans-Tasman bubble, that was when both of us were still trying to keep COVID out altogether. It’s very different now where we both have COVID,” she told the Nine Network.
“We’re both managing COVID but both opening up again. We still have pre-departure testing – it is a rapid antigen test though so nice and easy.”