Catholic Health Australia (CHA) is calling for the urgent approval of a Covid vaccine booster shot to avoid an October 2021 vaccination immunity ‘cliff’ currently looming on the horizon for Australia’s hospitals and aged care facilities.
Covid-immunity will begin to wear off for the first cohort of people who got vaccinated in February this year – a group that includes hospital doctors and nurses, along with aged care workers and aged care residents.
The nation’s largest non-government grouping of health and aged care services, says it is deeply concerned that people in this group cannot currently get access to a booster shot, because ATAGI (the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) has yet to approve it.
CHA is the peak advisory body that represents Catholic not for profit hospitals and aged care providers.
Its Director of Health Policy, James Kemp, is urging ATAGI to immediately recommend booster vaccines.
“There is now strong evidence that the immunity offered against Delta by two vaccine doses wears off after eight months,” Kemps says.
“So those who were vaccinated in February may be exposed come October.
“That means doctors, nurses, and those in aged care may be vulnerable within two months.
“If you’re a doctor working in a high-risk setting you can’t get a booster shot right now, because ATAGI hasn’t approved one. That makes you a sitting duck once October rolls around.”
Kemp says it makes sense for ATAGI to get out of the blocks and swiftly recommend a booster shot.
“If they don’t, then tens of thousands of people who work in hospitals and aged care facilities across our network will be left exposed,” he says.
“It’s easy to get bogged down in the here and now but a vaccination immunity cliff crisis is approaching fast and unless ATAGI moves very soon it will be a catastrophe for our staff.”
There is increasing evidence that the Delta variant transmits readily across vaccinated populations in other countries due to waning immune responses.
The evidence indicates the need for booster vaccinations after around eight months from the initial vaccination in order to maintain an effective immune response.
Germany, Israel, and United States who, after reviewing best available evidence, have agreed to commence boosters following their initial vaccination campaigns.
“We have come a long way in Australia to expand access to the vaccine and we don’t want to see those efforts be in vain, particularly when it is our front line workers and the most vulnerable people who are at risk to the disease,” Kemp says.