The latest findings about the real world impact of Omicron, published by the UK Health Security Agency (10 Dec 2021), show that Australia must take immediate steps to tackle this new variant of concern. The data outlines that Omicron appears more transmissible and has significantly impacted the effectiveness of vaccines in the United Kingdom. Critically, the report adds to evidence showing a third vaccine ‘booster’ dose is necessary to achieve levels of protection from symptomatic infection similar to what two vaccine doses achieved against earlier variants, including Delta.
In light of this emerging new evidence, OzSAGE recommends the Federal Government act immediately to ensure vaccine ‘booster’ doses are brought forward to avoid the likelihood of a major wave of new infections caused by Omicron. This should help to reduce avoidable illness and deaths, and reduce demand for hospital care.
Based on present information, a third vaccine dose could be given any time from two to six months after the second dose. OzSAGE is concerned that the newly revised five month booster interval will leave too many Australians vulnerable, and be too late to prevent a surge in Omicron in Australia, as is predicted in the UK. Rapidly achieving high third dose coverage is essential for protecting Australians and the health system.
OzSAGE notes that as of 12 December, 19,262,415 Australians were double-vaccinated (75.0% of the population) but only 687,067 (2.7% of the population) had received a third dose.
Further key OzSAGE recommendations to tackle the Omicron variant include:
- Commencing the vaccination of young children as soon as possible;
- Mandating well-fitted face masks inside public buildings;
- Redefining ‘fully vaccinated’ to include a requirement that adults have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within the past six months or that they have received a third dose booster; and
- Enhancing public communications to inform Australians of the pressing need for boosters.