Uptake of COVID-19 boosters (the third vaccine dose) has slowed considerably in all States and is particularly low in Queensland and New South Wales. Professor Bill Rawlinson AM is a Senior Medical Virologist and the Director of the Serology and Virology Division (SAViD) in Randwick. He explains that with COVID-19 cases on the rise, all eligible individuals should get a COVID-19 booster at their earliest convenience.
“With winter commencing, it is important for everyone that they are fully up to date with all relevant vaccinations, to maintain the highest level of immunity against COVID-19 and its variants. The new Omicron sub-variants may lead to some individuals becoming reinfected and, currently, the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise. As well, hospitalisations and deaths have increased. Whilst two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine provide a very good level of protection, especially against severe disease, a booster will ensure that the protection from the first two doses is even stronger and longer lasting.
“An expected rise in influenza cases combined with the current, rising trend of COVID-19 cases, is likely to put an extraordinary strain on the healthcare system this winter. By choosing to be fully vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza, everyone in the community can help to reduce the number of individuals that present at medical practices and Emergency Departments. Apart from avoiding significant ill health themselves, this reduces the risk of transmission to family and friends, and will preserve the capacity in the system for those that need these services the most,” said Prof Rawlinson.
All individuals aged 16 years and older are recommended to receive a first booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after completing their primary course. An additional, second booster dose is also recommended four months after the first for those at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes those aged 65 years or older, residents of an aged care or disability care facility, those who are immunocompromised, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older. COVID-19 boosters are free for everyone and are available from doctors, health clinics and pharmacies. People who have proven COVID-19 should wait at least three months before having an additional dose.
The advice remains that anyone who tests positive with COVID-19 should isolate at home immediately. Additionally, PCR testing continues to be the recommended ‘gold standard’ test for those experiencing symptoms, and particularly in certain high-risk situations, as it is highly sensitive and specific.
“Although it may seem as though COVID-19 is now behind us, with fewer restrictions still in place, it is important to be aware that the pandemic is not over. With cases still on the rise it is not the time to become complacent. In addition to vaccinations, we recommend that everyone remains vigilant against the spread of COVID-19 and takes the relevant precautions, such as, social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask where appropriate,” said Prof Rawlinson.
Uptake rates* of the COVID-19 booster in Australia (three or more vaccine doses):