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Ready and waiting: Country has 'more than enough' vaccine for booster plans

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Health Minister Greg Hunt has assured Australians the country has more than enough doses to cover the need for Covid-19 booster shots, even though the timing of a third short has been brought forward by a month.

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The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has confirmed booster doses can be provided from five months after completion of the primary course, rather six months as previously recommended.

ATAGI has also given approval to the Moderna vaccine as a booster shot for Australians aged 18 and over.

Like the Pfizer booster vaccine, it can be used irrespective of what a person received for their primary course of vaccination.

Health secretary Brendan Murphy, who is also the chair of ATAGI, said as people get towards six months after their second Covid-19 vaccine, they have a waning immunity.

“On that basis, ATAGI, who are looking at this every single week, have decided that at the moment it’s best to bring forward the booster eligibility date to five months to give people that time to get their booster before they reach the six-month mark,” Professor Murphy said.

Murphy and Hunt received their Moderna booster shots on Sunday, having both had AstraZeneca for their first and second doses.

Hunt said Australia had 151 million vaccine doses that had been set aside for boosters.

“There’s enough for all Australians,” he said.

He said more than 670,000 Australians had already received more than two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, the federal government will extend a loan guarantee scheme for small to medium-sized businesses, due to expire at the end of December, by six months.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said loans of up to $5 million over as long as 10 years would be extended for small businesses with a turnover under $250 million.

The government will guarantee the loans on a 50-50 split with the banks and they can be used to refinance existing loans.

“(The loans) can be used to … upgrade your production line if you’re a manufacturer, or if you’re a tradie (to) go and get some new tools, or if you’re a cafe, to go and get a new kitchen,” the treasurer told Channel 9 on Monday.

Elsewhere, NSW on Sunday recorded 485 new Covid-19 cases and two virus-related deaths.

Genomic testing into additional Omicron cases continues, with the state tally up to 45 as of Saturday.

There were 1069 new infections reported in Victoria and two deaths.

As of Saturday, Victorian authorities were responding to three Omicron infections.

South Australia added 10 infections to its COVID caseload, six of them close contacts and one which originated interstate, while the sources of the other three are still to be determined.

The Northern Territory counted three new cases in Katherine East and has introduced a 72-hour mask mandate for several communities where positive wastewater fragments have been detected.

The ACT recorded just one new infection, as did Queensland – an overseas arrival from Nigeria – who is being closely monitored for Omicron.

Queensland fully opens its border on Monday, the first time in 229 days that people will not have to quarantine on arrival provided they are fully vaccinated.

Hunt said more than 40 million COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Australia. More than 93 per cent of eligible Australians aged 16 and older have received a first dose while more than 89 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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