Covid Victoria: Falling booster rate blamed on complacency

Complacency is being blamed for Victoria’s falling booster uptake, with daily rates slowing drastically in recent days.

Complacency is creeping into Victoria’s Covid booster rollout as daily rates slowed drastically last week and authorities looked for ways to accelerate uptake before winter.

A Herald Sun analysis shows just 193,510 doses were administered over the five days to Friday last week, down from a peak of 328,842 doses for the same period in mid-January.

Pop-up clinics at shopping centres, railway stations and sports events are being considered to help reach those waiting to get their third shot, with on-site workplace vaccination programs also seen as crucial once work-from-home guidance is eased in coming weeks.

Authorities will this week discuss whether a second booster is needed for immunocompromised people before winter, and how they’ll manage the flu season.

At least 50,000 doses a day had been administered on each weekday since January 9, peaking at 74,536 doses on January 20 – the day after the interval between second and third shots was slashed to three months at state hubs.

But the daily rate fell below 40,000 six times last week. As of Sunday, 55 per cent of eligible Victorians had received their booster shot.

Senior figures in the rollout say the slowdown is due to several factors including confusion on when to get a booster shot after contracting the virus, as well as headlines suggesting the Omicron variant is not as severe.

While Australia’s booster program remains among the world’s fastest, vaccine rollout chief Lieutenant General John Frewen said: “There does appear to be some complacency coming in.”

“Omicron is a dangerous virus and I would urge everyone eligible to get your booster as soon as possible so you stay up to date and remain protected against Covid,” General Frewen said.

“Don’t risk getting Covid, and to anyone who’s had it and incorrectly thinks they can’t get Covid again, you still need to come forward and get a booster.”

Australia’s expert immunisation panel confirmed this month that booster shots were required within six months of a second vaccination to maintain up-to-date vaccination status.

General Frewen said 10,000 facilities were administering booster shots.

“Supply isn’t a problem. There’s currently nine million doses of vaccine in the fridges of GPs, pharmacies and state sites that’s been delivered, but yet to be used,” he said.

“Getting a booster is as convenient as it ever has been.

“If you want to make a booking you can, or you can just walk in to most pharmacies and state clinics and get your vaccination.

“While the booster program is going much faster than the primary course rollout, there is always more we can do.”

The Herald Sun last week revealed that federal research found 83 per cent of Australians had received the third shot or were intending to, and four out of five people said they knew when their booster was due and recognised it would increase their protection against infection or death.

A Victorian government spokesman said getting a third dose significantly reduced the chances of going to hospital, ICU or dying from Covid-19.

The state is contacting thousands of eligible Victorians via phone and text message every week – targeting those in areas where third dose coverage is low – to remind them they are due, as well as working with community leaders and local health services.

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