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Booster shot take-up ‘critical’ for SA restrictions lift

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Police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens says greater uptake of booster shots will be “absolutely critical” to lifting the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, as figures show hundreds of thousands of eligible South Australians are yet to receive their third shot.

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Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines are available to anyone in South Australia over the age of 18 who had their second COVID-19 jab at least four months ago, although the State Government announced a short time ago it would be shortening that interval to three months, effective immediately.

On Sunday, 57.1 per cent of the 646,474 people in the state who were eligible for a third shot had received one, according to SA Health data supplied to InDaily.

A total of 385,590 booster shots have been administered across the state as of Monday, according to federal government figures, leaving more than 250,000 eligible people who have not come forward for their third jab.

Stevens said authorities are “watching those numbers every day” and made a plea to the “substantial” number of people yet to receive their third dose.

“There are a lot of people who are eligible for the booster who haven’t turned up,” he told FIVEaa this morning.

“The sooner we get big numbers in that area, the sooner we can talk about lifting restrictions.”

The police commissioner, who tested positive to COVID-19 two weeks ago and has returned from isolation, said he was “reasonably optimistic” South Australia was charting a course out of the pandemic despite the nation reporting a record 77 virus-related deaths yesterday.

“I do think we’re on a path that will see us getting to where we were hoping to be at the end of 2021,” Stevens said, referring to the State Government’s abandoned plan to ease a raft of density restrictions on December 28 last year.

“I think we just have to hold the course for the time being – we’re pretty close.

“What we do need is for people who are eligible is to go out and get their third booster, that’s absolutely critical for us being able to lift restrictions.”

Today’s expanded booster eligibility announcement increases the number of people in South Australia eligible for a third shot by around 25 per cent, or 225,00 people, according to the State Government.

Premier Steven Marshall has previously flagged that South Australia’s restrictions are likely to last until at least the end of January as the state’s schools prepare for a controversial “hybrid” start to term one.

Marshall also today linked the uptake of booster vaccines to the easing of restrictions, telling reporters this afternoon, “the higher the booster level … the lower the transmission, the sooner that we can reduce those restrictions in South Australia”.

Stevens, asked whether there would be a third dose target which would trigger eased restrictions,  said he didn’t know, but added: “I wouldn’t suggest it has to be the same as what we had for the double dose (90 per cent).”

“But I do think we’ll be watching to see that we are able to identify a huge take up in this space, because it offsets the fact that the COVID is currently in our community,” the police commissioner said.

Meanwhile, New South Wales and Victoria – the two states which have administered the greatest number of boosters but are also dealing with slow takeup – both announced today they will also be shortening the third dose interval to three months, effective immediately.

The move means a further 2.45 million Victorians are now eligible to receive a third shot.

The smaller interval is due to come into place nationally on January 31.

New South Wales recorded another 32 COVID-19 deaths today – one in four of which were unvaccinated – while 2863 people are currently hospitalised with the virus.

Victoria, which today implemented an unprecedented “code brown” order across its metropolitan hospital, today recorded another 18 deaths and 20,769 cases.

South Australia recorded another 3482 COVID-19 cases today, up from 3079 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The number of people hospitalised with the virus has jumped sharply from 227 on Monday to 291 on Wednesday.

Stevens described COVID-19 as “a long way from endemic” but said it was pleasing that “we’re not seeing exponential growth in [case] numbers”.

“The Premier indicated that we might be at the peak of our curve, I think we’ll know more about that over the coming days,” Stevens said.

“We still do need to recognise that there are people who are ending up in hospital and intensive care because of COVID.

“I think the fact that we do have restrictions in place sends a pretty strong message to people that this is a this is a serious virus and we do need to take appropriate action.”

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