Vic reduces vaccine booster dose interval


More than two million Victorians who received a second COVID-19 vaccine dose three months ago can now get their booster shot, after the state reduced the interval. 

Victoria recorded 20,769 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths on Wednesday, 10,726 from PCR tests and 10,043 from rapid antigen tests.

Premier Daniel Andrews said, “effective immediately”, 2.45 million Victorians aged over 18 can receive their third dose.

“This will help more people get third-dosed quicker,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

New South Wales also reduced its time frame on Wednesday. 

Victoria is now managing 253,827 active cases, including 1173 people in hospital, an increase of 21 on Tuesday’s figures.

The number of people in intensive care sits at 125 and there are 42 people on ventilation.

But authorities are expecting hospital admissions from the current Omicron wave to skyrocket in the coming weeks. 

It has prompted a “code brown” declaration from midday on Wednesday. 

The order means each hospital will be able to postpone or defer less urgent care, while some staff may be reassigned or recalled from leave. 

Staff will only have leave cancelled if “absolutely necessary”.

Acting Health Minister James Merlino announced on Tuesday the measure would last for four to six weeks.

He said the state’s hospital system is under “extreme pressure” from staff shortages, with more than 4000 healthcare workers isolating after either testing positive for COVID-19 or as close contacts.

The code brown applies to all metropolitan Melbourne public hospitals, as well as major hospitals in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury Wodonga and Traralgon.

A code brown of this scale has never previously been declared across the Victorian health system.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said the change would likely funnel more patients to GPs and general practice teams, placing them under increasing pressure.

“GPs and general practice teams will step up once again and do all we can for our patients, but we will need a helping hand from government,” Dr Price said, suggesting several federal reform commitments for the upcoming election.