More than half a million Australians are dealing with COVID-19 infections as authorities begin to roll out a second booster for vulnerable groups.
The number of active cases has climbed above the 500,000 mark for the first time since late-January, when the initial Omicron wave receded.
Around one-in-five PCR tests are coming back positive in Western Australia which is still in the midst of its first major outbreak.
Experts say a fourth jab will be critical in the effort to protect at-risk Australians ahead of winter, with a surge in cases of the virus and influenza looming.
An estimated 4.7 million people will be eligible to get a fourth dose but it is expected fewer than 200,000 will meet requirements at the start of the rollout.
People can have a second booster shot four months after receiving their first.
A parliamentary hearing was told on Friday eligibility numbers will be “relatively small” initially, with the bulk of people more likely able to book vaccination appointments through May and June.
Health department secretary Dr Brendan Murphy says the fourth jab will be critical in the effort to protect at-risk Australians ahead of winter, with a surge in cases of both the virus and influenza looming.
“The single most important thing we can do to protect people with underlying medical conditions, people with disability, people at risk of severe COVID, is to get as much vaccination – including full booster protection – as possible,” he said.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee expects an infection peak will hit in mid-April in several jurisdictions.
Comprised of chief health officers from across the country, the group says it is considering recommending the removal of quarantine for COVID-19 close contacts.
It says isolation could be replaced by frequent rapid antigen testing, mask wearing outside the house and limiting access of close contacts to high-risk settings.
As of Sunday, more than 12,960,000 Australians had received a first booster vaccine.
Almost 20 million have had at least their first vaccine shot and roughly 900,000 remain unvaccinated.
More than 47,000 new COVID-19 infections and 17 virus-related deaths were reported across the country on Sunday.
There are still nearly 504,000 active cases Australia-wide.
Almost 2600 patients are being cared for in hospital wards, 103 of them in ICUs.
Your options for COVID-19 winter dose vaccination
Primary care providers are the key delivery channel for on-site COVID-19 winter vaccinations.
Aged care providers are required to work with existing primary care providers to plan for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations as residents become eligible.
If you require assistance in organising for a primary care provider to deliver your COVID-19 Winter vaccine doses, contact your Primary Health Network as soon as possible.
Aged care providers previously approved by the Commonwealth to conduct their self-run on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinics can opt to run their own COVID-19 Winter dose clinics.
These aged care providers can also opt to administer flu vaccinations at the same time, if authorised to do so by their respective state or territory government. It is important to note that only the COVID-19 vaccination component will be covered under the provider’s contract with the Commonwealth.
Facilities that are unable to secure a primary care provider to administer COVID-19 Winter vaccine doses, and do not have prior approval to conduct a self-run on-site clinic, will be able to request an in-reach Commonwealth COVID-19 Winter Dose Vaccination clinic.
- To be eligible for a Commonwealth COVID-19 winter dose clinic a facility will need to have 10 per cent or more of their resident population requiring a COVID-19 vaccination, and a minimum of 10 residents in total.
- Vaccination requirements can include primary, booster or Winter doses.
- Facilities who do not meet this threshold, but who are unable to access an alternate means to deliver the vaccine, can also register interest for a Commonwealth COVID-19 Winter dose Vaccination clinic.
To register for a Commonwealth COVID-19 winter dose vaccination clinic, complete the online form here.
Co-administration of COVID-19 Winter dose and annual flu vaccination
ATAGI advises that COVID-19 winter doses can be administered at the same time as the annual flu vaccination.
Co-administration of COVID-19 winter doses and influenza vaccines for residents is both clinically safe and administratively efficient.
In planning your winter dose programs, aged care providers are encouraged to:
- identify and optimise opportunities for co-administration of COVID-19 Winter doses and flu vaccines where possible.
- not delay the administration of flu vaccines to residents if co-administration is not possible or is likely to delay flu vaccination.
Winter doses for eligible workers
Workers who meet ATAGI’s criteria of a vulnerable individual should be supported to receive a Winter dose from 4 months after their booster dose. Workers can access the Winter dose through:
- your facility’s on-site vaccination program
- general practitioners
- state and territory vaccination clinics.
Workers can book a winter dose appointment using the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder.
They can also call the dedicated COVID-19 Helpline on 1800 020 080 (select option 4) for any questions about vaccination and for assistance on how to book an appointment.
Winter dose vaccination for eligible workers is not mandatory and is not required to meet ATAGI’s definition of up-to-date.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA FROM ACROSS AUSTRALIA:
NSW: 16,807 cases, 11 deaths, 1355 in hospital, 50 in ICU
Victoria: 9008 cases, two deaths, 307 in hospital, 18 in ICU
Queensland: 8478 cases, no deaths, 418 in hospital, 16 in ICU
ACT: 718 cases, no deaths, 41 in hospital, two in ICU
Northern Territory: 309 cases, no deaths, 14 in hospital, one in ICU
Western Australia: 6439 cases, three historical deaths, 221 in hospital, seven in ICU
South Australia: 4096 cases, one death, 188 in hospital, eight in ICU
Tasmania: 1683 cases, no deaths, 37 in hospital, one in ICU.