Millions more eligible for boosters

Dominic Giannini |

Millions more Aussies are now eligible for their booster shot with the timeframe between second and third doses reducing to four months from Tuesday.

Around 7.5 million Australians will be eligible from Tuesday, up from around 4.1 million at the end of 2021.

The federal government announced changes to the timeframe on Christmas Eve, with the reductions coming in two stages.

Boosters will be brought forward to four months after the second dose, down from five months, on January 4.

Then from January 31, people can get boosters after three months. 

This means around 16 million people will be eligible for their third shot at the end of the month.

The changes come amid record spikes in cases across Australia – the majority making up exponential rises in NSW and Victoria.

There were 20,794 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths in NSW on Monday.

Victoria reached a daily record of 8577 COVID-19 infections and a further three deaths

There was a new high of 4249 cases in Queensland, with the sudden death at home of a man in his late 30s who had “probable COVID-19”, according to the state’s chief health officer.

Tasmania registered a record of 466 new cases, as did the ACT with 516.

There were 2552 cases in South Australia, 58 in the Northern Territory and two in Western Australia.

The fight over free rapid tests also continues, with the tests being difficult to get a hand on despite forming the backbone of Australia’s new testing regime.

The prime minister has so far resisted calls to make the tests free despite some states moving to do so.

“We’re now at a stage of the pandemic where you can’t just make everything free”, Scott Morrison told the Seven Network on Monday.

“We already make them free to everyone who is required to have one.”

Independent senator Rex Patrick criticised the line by the prime minister, saying he couldn’t spruik a booming economy at the same time.

“$13 billion of taxpayers’ money went to businesses who didn’t need Jobkeeper. The prime minister is putting re-election before public health,” he told Sky News.

“We have vaccination which is free, we have PCR testing which is free. To have a tool in the toolkit like rapid antigen tests and not fund it properly is just madness.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it’s a “public policy failure” that tests aren’t more widely available as pharmacies and chemists run out of stock across the eastern states.