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Everyone who has been fully vaccinated for six months or longer can come forward for COVID-19 booster shots, and GPs and pharmacies clinics can offer all three vaccines as the rollout continues.
From Monday, pharmacies will be able to administer Pfizer doses, while GPs can provide Moderna, increasing the availability of vaccines as some states and territories continue to struggle with lagging immunisation rates.
Pharmacies will be able to deliver Pfizer vaccines from Monday as the booster program is officially launched.Credit:Kate Geraghty
However, in an email to members last week the Pharmacy Guild expressed concern that only about 20 per cent of all Australian pharmacies had ordered Pfizer doses. But of the 3416 chemists that are participating, one third (1156 pharmacies) have ordered.
So far 89.3 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and up have had one dose, and 80.5 per cent are fully vaccinated. But Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland all have double-dose rates of less than 70 per cent.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Sonya Bennett said some of those jurisdictions, notably Queensland and the Northern Territory, were on the cusp of 80 per cent first doses, and they should reach the 80 per cent fully vaccinated mark over the next month.
“The higher vaccination coverage that we have as a country, the less virus will be circulating and the more people we’ll see protected and the less impact on our health system,” she said on Sunday.
The booster program for the broader population begins on Monday, but already 173,000 boosters have been administered to people including aged care residents and frontline health workers.
“All primary care sites around the country will progressively be able to offer all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia, increasing choice and making it easier for whole families to get vaccinated at the same time,” a spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
Pharmacy guild president Trent Twomey said pharmacies are ready to deliver the government’s program.
“However our members will struggle to achieve desired booster levels without an increased uptake in participation which is sitting at 19.6 per cent of pharmacies,” he said.
“A multi dose vial that requires dilution and some 27 specific requirements placed on pharmacies by ATAGI does not … resemble other vaccine programs.”
The program is still in its early stages, with those who received their shots in April and May, including aged care and healthcare workers, aged care residents and those aged over 50 first to be eligible to receive a booster. In NSW, people aged 40 to 49 became eligible for the vaccine in May.
Dr Bennett said it’s still too early to say if the booster shot will be needed regularly, but she believes it’s unlikely to become a yearly vaccine similar to the flu shot.
“I think over time what will happen is that it’s unlikely that it will be an annual vaccine or booster, but periodically, it may well be required,” she said. “Clearly it’s important to get this first booster, there’s no doubt about that.”
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