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Vaccine for babies closer as nation's Covid-19 death toll heads towards 10,000

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More than two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia is likely to record its 10,000th death from the virus within days.

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NSW and Victoria together recorded 40 more deaths in the latest 24-hour period. Queensland has recorded 1248 Covid- associated deaths since the pandemic began.

The national death toll from the virus stood at 9879 according to figures released on Thursday, with the 10,000 milestone likely to be reached on the weekend.

NSW Health is warning of a rise in cases this winter as new sub-variants take over, making people vulnerable to copping a second dose of the virus.

The BA.2 sub-lineage remains the dominant variant. However, it is expected BA.4 and BA.5 will become dominant in the coming weeks and “are likely to be associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections, including an increase in re-infections”.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said there was no evidence yet that the new sub-variants lead to more severe illness, but “there is evidence that they are better at evading the body’s immunity”.

“So it is vital that anyone who is eligible for a booster dose who hasn’t yet received it does so as soon as possible,” she said.

Meanwhile, vaccinations are no longer mandatory in Queensland for visitors to hospitals, aged care facilities, disability accommodation and jails.

Workers in high-risk settings such as early childhood, primary and secondary education, prisons, youth detention centres and airports are also exempt, unless required by employers to be vaccinated.

Testing on arrival for international visitors to Queensland has also been scrapped.

In another sign the pandemic is entering a new stage, the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility, which opened in February 2020, will close on Thursday.

The facility will remain intact in case it is ever needed again.

More than 60,000 people were quarantined at the facility during the past two years.
It also provided a pathway for thousands of Australians stuck overseas to return home.

At the centre’s busiest, staff cared for up to 2000 people per fortnight.

Australia is also one step closer to having Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged six months to five years old, after Pfizer was approved to submit an application for the immunisation by the medical regulator.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has granted a provisional determination to Pfizer, which would allow the pharmaceutical giant to apply to extend vaccine use to the younger cohort.

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children aged five and over, but there has been talk of extending its use to those under five, after US regulators recently approved a similar move.

A spokesman for the administration said the provisional determination was the first step in the approval process.

“The TGA considered all eligibility criteria, including evidence of a plan to submit comprehensive clinical data and the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesman said.

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