UPDATED 1:15 pm: The ACT Government has this afternoon confirmed eligible Canberrans will soon be able to access a so-called ‘winter dose’ of a COVID-19 vaccination, following approval from ATAGI.
The doses will be administered from April at ACT Government vaccination clinics four months after a booster or, for severely immunocompromised people, four months after a fourth dose.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said there would be further announcements made next week about when bookings would be open.
“This is very welcome news and provides Canberrans who are more at risk of severe outcomes as a result of contracting COVID-19 with boosted protection. This is particularly important as we head into winter where we will see both COVID-19 and influenza circulating in our community,” Ms Stephen-Smith said in a statement.
She also encouraged anyone who has not yet received a booster dose to come forward and roll their sleeves up to do so before winter.
“COVID-19 is still very much in our community and it’s important that we do everything we can to protect ourselves and those around us and being up to date with our vaccinations is key,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
Walk-ins are available at the AIS mass vaccination hub every day.
“Talk to a GP or health care provider after you have recovered from COVID-19 for advice on the best timing for vaccination,” she said.
The following people will soon be eligible to access a fourth shot:
- Adults aged 65 and over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older
- Residents of aged care or disability care settings
It’s not yet known exactly how many Canberrans will be affected by the announcement.
Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston called it “welcome news” and said the additional shot would provide further protection to those most at risk of severe disease as a result of developing COVID-19.
Dr Johnston said local cases had increased significantly in the last week – up by 48 per cent compared to the week before although hospitalisations are remaining stable.
More than 80 per cent of all sequenced tests were identified as the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron.
It’s expected case numbers will remain high in the coming weeks but this shouldn’t flow on to increased hospitalisations.
Dr Johnston noted such high caseloads were “uncomfortable” but periods such as this would become more normal as the virus transitions from a pandemic to a seasonal, endemic virus.
She said, despite this, it was important people continued to do what they could to slow transmission of the virus, including by getting boosted and remaining at home if unwell.
11:30 am: A woman in her 90s has become the 39th COVID-19 casualty in the ACT and the Territory has recorded its fourth consecutive day with cases above 1000.
The ACT has recorded 1122 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night as the nation’s top vaccine advisory group, ATAGI, is set to recommend a fourth jab for vulnerable Australians.
It comes as health authorities around the country prepare for a feared winter surge in infections.
In most states, COVID-19 infections are already rising due to the spread of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron, which is believed to be more infectious.
The increase in cases has yet to lead to a rise in hospitalisations; however, there could be a lag between high caseloads and hospitalisations.
The fourth dose will be administered to people over the age of 66 and anyone who is immunocompromised.
Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over and residents of aged and disability care facilities will also be eligible for the additional dose. They will begin to be rolled out from the beginning of April.
For some people with underlying health conditions, it will be the fifth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine they have received.
It’s understood people will be asked to wait four to six months between COVID-19 vaccine doses or their last infection with the virus.
The ACT’s health authorities have yet to make an announcement on fourth doses.
Australia changed its definition of “fully vaccinated” to require three doses of a vaccine in February.
It’s expected the country will soon move towards recommending a seasonal jab as with the flu vaccine.
Take-up of the influenza jab will also be highly recommended this year as there are concerns about a dual spike in COVID-19 cases and the flu.
Flu cases have been extremely low for the past two winters due to strict border restrictions.
The ACT’s health authorities are also preparing for this and will soon roll out campaigns to encourage the flu jab.
The 1122 (625 PCR, 497 RAT) new cases of COVID-19 reported this morning take the Territory’s local active caseload to 6522 (3352 PCR and 3170 RAT).
There are now 42 patients in ACT hospitals with COVID-19. Of these, three are in ICU; none require ventilation.
This was the same yesterday.
As of yesterday, the double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population was 97.0 per cent, and 72.2 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.
Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 41.2 per cent had received two doses.
Since the pandemic began, 71,683 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the ACT (46,873 PCR and 24,810 RAT).
Interstate, NSW has reported seven deaths overnight and 23,702 new cases.
There are now 1182 people in hospital with the virus and 43 people in ICUs around the state.
Victoria has reported nine new deaths overnight and an additional 9244 cases of COVID-19.
There are now 253 people hospitalised with the virus, while 19 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.
More to come.