NSW opens booster door to 1.8m more adults

Luke Costin and Phoebe Loomes |

Some 1.8 million NSW residents are newly eligible for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after the NSW government cut wait times between shots.

People who received their second shot three months ago can book into one of the state’s 40 vaccination clinics, a reduction of the earlier four-month wait period.

“As we are clearly seeing boosters are key to keeping yourself, your friends and your family safe,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

The four-month interval was to drop to three months on January 31, in line with federal government rules for GPs and pharmacies.

This takes the total number of people in NSW eligible for a booster to 3.55 million.

The state’s clinics can provide 250,000 shots a week but delivered about 180,000 last week.

“It’s awful for us to see our bookings in our clinics go begging,” NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said.

Triple-dosed adults now sit at 27.8 per cent, despite more than half of adults being eligible.

Being infected with COVID-19 can delay a booster schedule, however adults can have their booster four to six weeks after being infected with COVID-19, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

Vaccine body ATAGI is currently working through official guidance.

Some 300,000 people are isolating with COVID-19, while another 550,000 have been infected in the past four weeks.

It comes after the state reported 32 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. Of those, 20 were men and 12 were women, including three people in their 40s and 18 people over 80.

One in four deaths were of unvaccinated people, while only five people had received a booster.

About a third of the fatalities came from southwest Sydney, while deaths were also recorded across the city, the Central Coast and the northern region of New England.

With 36 deaths reported on Tuesday, 18 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in NSW were recorded in the past week.

“No matter where you are in NSW or indeed Australia, you are vulnerable,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

The number of COVID-19 hospital patients rose by 13 to 2863, with ICU numbers up eight to 217.

The health minister said half of those in ICU were unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated people make up only five per cent of the NSW adult population, and 18 per cent of the total population.

Infections appear to have stabilised, with 32,297 new cases including 12,450 from rapid antigen tests.

It’s the fourth straight day under 35,000.

Meanwhile, intensive care nurses rallied outside Westmead Hospital to draw attention to “the dangerous staffing levels faced on every shift”.

“We’re not OK and we’re being told just to ‘get on with it’ … we don’t want ‘thank you’, we want safe staffing,” ICU nurse Amy Halvorsen told reporters on Wednesday

The premier thanked health workers for their sacrifices as Mr Hazzard defended the government’s record on nursing levels.

“Since (2011) we have employed another nearly 10,000 nurses and … we’re employing another 5000 … and that is certainly aimed at trying to relieve the pressure on our frontline nursing staff,” the health minister said.

Rapid antigen tests are on their way to regional and rural schools as officials prepare plans for the state’s 1.3 million students being tested twice-weekly.

“We’re absolutely confident with our supplies coming in and getting them shipped out to schools,” Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said on Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday.

But Ms Mitchell is adamant term one will not be delayed, as in Queensland.

The NSW Labor opposition wants schools turned into vaccination hubs.

NSW and Victoria are due to present a united schooling plan to national cabinet on Thursday.