News Coronavirus Booster vaccines to be brought forward — and Moderna added to the arsenal
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Booster vaccines to be brought forward — and Moderna added to the arsenal

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The wait time for Australians to receive a booster shot will be cut from six months to five in response to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, the Federal Health Minister has announced.

The Moderna vaccine has also been added to the booster-shot arsenal, giving Australians the choice of Moderna or Pfizer for their third dose, irrespective of their first course.

The changes follow the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisations (ATAGI) updating its advice “given the likelihood of ongoing transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants”.

It comes as Omicron continues to be detected in Australia, with Victoria investigating seven suspected cases from Saturday while NSW recorded another three.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said data from Israel showed booster jabs lead to reductions in infection rates as well as the rate of severe disease and deaths.

“A booster dose, five or more months after the second dose, will make sure that the protection from the primary course is even stronger and longer lasting and should help prevent spread of the virus,” he told Nine newspapers.

ATAGI had been considering whether to reduce the waiting period following the UK where scientists have warned to expect a massive wave of Omicron in January.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton commended ATAGI for changing its advice on the booster gap.

“Thanks ATAGI. There is an urgent need for third doses/boosters. Don’t delay if you’re due. I’ll now get mine before Christmas,” he tweeted on Saturday night.

Victoria recorded 13 virus deaths on Saturday — although seven occurred in November — and 1193 new cases.

Cases continue to rise in NSW which reported 560 new infections on Saturday, the highest in two months, and another three people died.

Three of the new cases were of the Omicron variant, taking the total in the state to 45.

Eleven more people tested positive for COVID-19 in the ACT, while South Australia reported six local cases and Queensland and the Northern Territory recorded one each.

Two cases announced in South Australia on Friday were confirmed to be the Omicron COVID-19 variant, SA Health said on Saturday night.

Western Australia is expected to announce its anticipated border reopening but in the meantime will tighten its borders with Queensland from Monday.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said vaccinated travellers from Queensland must now quarantine for 14 days on arrival, following a virus outbreak on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, Queensland is preparing to reopen its borders to virus hotspots in NSW, Victoria and the ACT from Monday.

This domestic opening comes as the federal government prepares to welcome back international students and other visa holders, after delaying the move by two weeks.

It’s also extended biosecurity measures controlling who can enter and leave the country until February 17.

Mandatory COVID-19 testing for people wanting to fly into Australia will continue, along with mask mandates on international flights.

The rules also cover restrictions on international arrivals from high-risk countries, unvaccinated Australians wanting to go overseas, and controls on cruise ships.

-with AAP