Australia

‘Worrying’: Concerns grow over Australia’s low rates of third vaccine doses

State and federal authorities are concerned the number of Australians getting their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is flatlining.
To date, 71.4 per cent of eligible Australians, or just over 14.1 million people, have received a third dose. But there are more than 5.6 million yet to get their booster.

Queensland is the worst-performing state, with 64.5 per cent of eligible residents boosted, while the ACT has the best coverage (79.9 per cent). The booster rate is 55 per cent for Indigenous Australians nationally.

New third doses are barely rising each day, ranging from NSW recording 2075 on Friday and the Northern Territory 45.
“Third booster dose rates have flatlined, which is something I’m very concerned about,” Health Minister Mark Butler says.

Information campaigns are being rolled out, but there is a persistent problem with the slow uptake rate by under-65s.

‘No explanation’

So far, 4.22 million Australians have received a fourth dose, after the program was extended several weeks ago.
Opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston says the federal government’s response to the Omicron wave is “worrying”.

“They have ended a range of supports that have helped Australians through the pandemic and have been forced to backflip on the pandemic leave disaster payment,” she told AAP.

“With no explanation and no apparent advice or modelling to support their decisions, 70 COVID-related telehealth items, free RATS for concession card holders and aged care homes, and Operation COVID Shield have all ended.”

Victoria’s health system ‘weathering’ COVID-19 storm

Meanwhile, quarterly data shows the Victorian healthcare system is under unprecedented pressure from the flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Victoria’s wait list for elective procedures has fallen from a revised 88,920 to 87,275 after the June quarter, according to new data released on Saturday.
It comes after some Victorian hospitals, including The Alfred and Bendigo Health, delayed or cancelled surgeries in mid-July amid the nation’s third Omicron wave.

Any potential impact of their decisions will therefore not be reflected until the next quarterly data batch.

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas says there was a 48 per cent rise in the number of planned surgeries in Victoria in the three months to June compared to the March quarter.
That roughly equates to an extra 20,000 procedures.
“We’re in the midst of a record-breaking period of demand on our health system, but this latest data shows we are weathering the storm and building a system that will be stronger than ever,” Ms Thomas told reporters in Melbourne.
“All our healthcare workers are doing an incredible job under challenging circumstances, and this government is ensuring they have all the support they need to give Victorians the care they deserve faster.”
Ms Thomas says there’s no quick fix, but the government’s $12 billion pandemic repair plan and $1.5 billion COVID-19 catch-up initiative are starting to have an impact.
While fewer people were waiting for elective surgery than three months ago, opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier noted there were 21,000 more people on the waiting list than at the same time last year.

“That is 21,000 more Victorians waiting in pain with their health deteriorating,” she said.

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