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Expert warns that 'horse has bolted' over efforts to contain Omicron strain

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Omicron will likely replace Delta as the dominant COVID-19 variant, with one virus expert declaring it may be too late to prevent the spread of the new strain.

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Chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Jane Halton said while scientists were assessing the seriousness of the new variant, Omicron was here to stay.

“It’s arrived and we’re now seeing it spreading not just in Sydney but elsewhere,” Halton told the Nine Network on Thursday.

“I think the horse has bolted.”

It comes as a new study showed the Pfizer vaccine booster was an effective defence against the Omicron variant.

Halton said more work was being undertaken to determine how effective COVID-19 vaccines would be against the Omicron variant.

“We all need to remember we don’t have a lot of data yet, but it certainly doesn’t look like (Omicron) is going to cause lots of severe disease and death,” she said.

“That’s great if true, but it’s still early days, the WHO (World Health Organisation) is optimistic, so I think we all can be optimistic.”

It coincides with the country’s medical regulator giving provisional approval to vaccine maker Moderna for its COVID-19 booster.

Those 18 and over who have had their initial course of COVID-19 vaccines more than six months ago will be eligible for the top-up shot.

If final approval is granted by Australia’s leading vaccine body, there will two vaccine brands for people to choose from for a booster.

More than 580,000 adults have received a booster shot.

Meanwhile, the majority of Australians intend to get a COVID-19 booster shot, but hesitancy remains among more disadvantaged communities.

An Australian National University survey has found 71.9 of vaccinated adults intend to get a third dose.

Concern about side effects is the main worry for people still wary of boosters.

Men, younger people, and those in less advantaged areas, who have only recently received a first dose, haven’t finished school and speak a language other than English are less willing to get one.

The study calls for evidence-based interventions to promote jab uptake among these communities and protect against immunity disparities.

Of the 3474 people surveyed in October, 291 had not been vaccinated and the main concern was side effects.

Across Australia, 88.5 per cent of people aged 16 and older are double-dosed and 93 per cent have had one jab.

Victoria recorded 1312 infections on Wednesday, and its first case of the Omicron variant, alongside five more deaths.

NSW reported 403 infections and one additional death.

Queensland also confirmed two cases of Omicron in people from overseas.

Meanwhile, the ACT recorded eight new COVID-19 infections and one more death. A baby girl was among two new cases in the Northern Territory.

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