Vaccines play major role against severe Omicron cases, says Australia's health chief
Existing Covid-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness from the omicron variant, but they’re not as good as with other strains in preventing transmission and mild illness, Australia’s Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said at a briefing Friday.
Three vaccine doses are roughly as effective at preventing transmission and severe disease from omicron as two are for the delta variant, Kelly said, highlighting the importance of booster shots in stemming a surge of cases in Australia.
“That’s one of the reasons why we are seeing increases in cases but not so much of an increase in hospitalizations or other forms of severe disease,” Kelly said. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing here in Australia.”Shortages of vaccines at some Australian surgeries and pharmacies are short term due to the recent acceleration of the booster program, which made people eligible at five months instead of six months after their second dose, vaccine rollout chief Lieutenant General John Frewen said at the briefing. “There’s no concern about the amount of supply,” he said.About 4 million people are due to get a booster shot by the end of the year, up from 1.7 million before the timeline was changed, Frewen said.More than 4.6 million doses are already “sitting on shelves in GPs and pharmacies and in state clinics,” he said. “In those cases where people have run short because of this new demand, we are working to get the supply to them as quickly as we can.”In New South Wales, Australia’s most-populous state, daily Covid-19 cases surged to a record 2,213 on Friday from 158 a week earlier, as end-of-year gatherings sparked superspreader events in venues including nightclubs and pubs. Hospitalizations are rising but remain low at 215, with 24 in intensive care.In the country’s second-most populous state, Victoria, cases remained steady Friday at 1,510, with 386 hospitalized and 82 active ICU cases.