2 February 2022

As demand for boosters slows, health authorities want to know why

| Lottie Twyford
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vaccine clinic

Health authorities are somewhat concerned the Territory’s booster dose program is not progressing as quickly as hoped. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

While the initial uptake of the COVID-19 booster program was “encouraging”, the ACT’s health authorities have conceded it appears demand has begun to slow.

ACT Health is conducting further analysis to try and find out exactly why this is happening.

“The extent of this decrease in demand is being analysed,” a government spokesperson said. “ACT Health is also looking to capture community sentiment to better understand the slowing in demand.”

ANU Medical School infectious disease expert Professor Peter Collignon said it’s most likely a combination of factors.

Firstly, he thinks the messaging around who exactly would benefit most from a booster shot could be much clearer.

“Where boosters are really needed are for people over the ages of 50 and 60,” Professor Collignon said. “The booster can really make a difference for them.”

He wondered if the fact the government is now targeting everyone with the booster campaign means the message may be getting lost.

As the number of positive cases grow in the community, more younger people who catch COVID-19 will likely receive some kind of natural immunity post-infection.

“The reality is that probably gives you a booster,” he explained.

It’s also likely others who catch the virus may be advised to wait for periods of anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months between recovery and receiving a third dose of vaccine. Professor Collignon said a period of waiting could actually make the booster more effective.

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According to the ACT Government, at close of business on Sunday 30 January, 165,848 ACT residents had received a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is around 51 per cent of all those currently eligible for the booster.

Authorities expected a surge in demand for boosters and vaccines for children, hence the re-opening of the Canberra Airport mass vaccination clinic last month.

Together, the airport and the AIS hubs can deliver 32,500 vaccinations a week, which is an increase on the 29,500 delivered each week in September last year.

But this demand hasn’t materialised.

READ ALSO ACT’s public hospitals still languishing: Productivity Commission report

Last week, then acting Minister for Health Chris Steel urged people to come forward and roll up their sleeves for a booster.

“We’ve seen the ACT have the uptake of booster shots across Australia,” Mr Steel said on Friday. “However, this is still lower than we were projecting, and we still do want to see many more people come forward to take up their booster shot – it is the best protection they have against serious disease.”

Mr Steel said anyone not coming forward for a booster no longer had a real excuse given there are so many appointments available.

He said he hoped the program would pick up speed now that people are returning to more usual routines of work and school.

Eligible Canberrans can book in for a booster appointment at either an ACT Government clinic or with their local GP or pharmacy. Appointments are available at government clinics as early as today through MyDHR or by calling 5124 7700 between 7 am and 7 pm each day.

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Looking at the latest NSW Health Covid hospitalisation and death statistics shows very little percentage difference in outcome (1.1% to 1.4%) whatever your vaccination status, whether you be unvaccinated, one dose, two shots or with booster. So the low take-up of boosters is probably because people realise they make little difference and that your general health and weight are the best defences against illness. Also the desire to avoid third, fourth, fifth,,,,,annual boosters to the benefit of the drug industry.

You’re misreading the data to suit your own position.

Because outcomes are also determined by other factors like age or underlying health conditions, this will affect the numbers because almost all people at greater risk have had 2 or 3 doses, whereas the unvaccinated skew younger and healthier (mostly the reason they think they don’t need to be vaccinated).

But if you look at the age breakdown, you will see how much worse the outcomes are for older unvaccinated people, compared to their vaccinated counterparts.

The whole point in the push for widescale vaccination is to protect those people who are at greater risk.

There will come a time soon when we won’t need population wide vaccination but right now, if you are against vaccination, you’re saying that you’re happy for older and vulnerable people to die.

As an older person yourself, seems a strange position to hold.

I don’t know about you, but even a 0.3% chance of not dying seems like a worthwhile reason to spend 5 minutes getting a needle down the local shops. It’s also worth noting that the booster is not just about preventing death, but short and long term symptoms. Those I know who have had it had to take a week or longer off work, and being contractors to some it meant not being paid. Personally I’ll get the booster and not risk living on 2 minute noodles for a week.

HiddenDragon6:33 pm 02 Feb 22

There may be some who are waiting for Novavax as a booster, or for the Omicron-specific vaccines on the way from Pfizer and Moderna – particularly as some of the local reporting (such as it has been) on the latter two options has tended to be unclear about the likely delays –


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