Australians might be mandated to get their third shot of the COVID-19 before being considered “fully vaccinated,” as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was pushing for a redefinition of the term.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the National Cabinet on Thursday, the premier said “only three doses” could help people be “properly protected against serious illness” and prepared for “whatever’s next to hit us, whether variant’s coming down the track.”
“This is not a two-dose thing (or) two doses and a bonus—it is absolutely critical and essential,” he told reporters.
“International evidence, our own experience, the views of experts and hopefully confirmation of both ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization) and national cabinet today will mean everyone knows and understands this is a three-dose project.”
Andrews said he hoped the confirmation to be made today.
However, according to Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutewin, the ATAGI advice had not been provided to leaders.
If a change in ATAGI’s advice were to be made, it would be up to states and territories to amend their respective public health orders.
Under the Andrews government, Australians working in health and aged care, emergency services, disability, quarantine accommodation, food distribution and corrections must get their booster shot to continue working on site.
Andrews said he expected to add more groups of workers to the list if the national cabinet decided to redefine the meaning of being “fully vaccinated.”
The change could also affect visitors to hospitality venues and major events, who would need to have three doses, rather than the current two.
“If it was logical to mandate in certain settings for dose one and dose two, I don’t see that there’s any reason why wouldn’t,” the premier argued.
His opinion was echoed by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who said in early January that the ATAGI has been holding weekly meetings to discuss potential changes to the vaccine program.
“There’s a number of implementation issues that would need to be considered, but… the third dose is clearly an important thing,” Kelly told reporters.
“If you have Omicron or Omicron is present, we know that does increase the protection against severe disease and against transmission and against infection.”
According to Victoria’s health department, reported by The Australian on Jan. 27, unvaccinated people made up more than a third of ICU patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 despite representing six percent of the state’s population.
By Jan. 27, 93.1 percent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated, with over 7 million Australian adults having been triple vaccinated. However, a booster shot is currently only available to those over 18.