MyGov to push vaccine boosters as doctors call for clearer messaging12/02/2021
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Millions of Australians will get a message through online government portal MyGov reminding them to get a booster vaccine shot early next year as doctors call for clearer communication about the booster program.
From early 2022, the Commonwealth plans to notify people through MyGov that they’re due for a booster, either through direct alerts if people have given consent or through an email in MyGov itself.
GPs are expected to deliver the bulk of booster doses.Credit:Getty
Booster shots are not mandatory but are highly recommended six months after second doses, as they can further reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president Dr Karen Price said doctors were concerned about having enough resources to roll out a massive booster campaign, and the Commonwealth must make sure people know why it’s important.
“It’s pretty clear to me as a clinician that everybody really should get a booster,” RACGP president Dr Price said. “It’s just a question of how we’re going to do that.
“It’s not just a straightforward ‘line up and get your dose’, we do have to be spending some time adequately giving people the right information so that they can make an informed decision.”
GPs, who have administered the bulk of COVID-19 vaccines around the country, expect they will also administer the majority of boosters. Pharmacies and state-run clinics can also administer booster shots. About 560,000 people are already eligible for a booster shot, and about 500,000 immunocompromised people are also eligible. So far, 470,000 of them have received their third shot.
By the end of December 1.75 million people will be eligible for booster doses. That number will grow to 4.1 million by the end of January, 7.5 million by the end of February before ballooning to 17.8 million by the end of May next year.
The federal Department of Health has begun a booster information campaign. Letters have been sent to about 11 million households around the country, co-signed by the Prime Minister, Health Minister and Chief Health Officer, telling people “it’s now time to think about your COVID-19 vaccine booster”.
The government has also launched a broader campaign involving TV, radio, online and print advertising. States and territories were looking at using check-in apps to remind people they were eligible for boosters, while immunocompromised people were being reminded through their specialists or doctors.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, co-ordinator general of Operation COVID Shield said the Commonwealth was working with all vaccine providers to make sure people were aware they were eligible for a booster and why it was needed.
“Whilst the number of people eligible in the remainder of this year is moderately low, we will see the program ramp up in the first quarter of 2022,” General Frewen said.
“Boosters are strongly recommended to build on your initial primary course of vaccination and I encourage you all to make a booking when you become eligible and get a booster.”
In Victoria, people can use the state’s booking system to make a booster appointment up to six weeks in advance provided the chosen date is at least six months after their second dose.
A Victorian health department spokesman said the federal government expects most booster to be administered through primary care, but states and territories would also support the program.
“If you got your second dose at a state-run vaccination centre before the end of May, you can expect to receive a call or text from the Department reminding you you’re due for a booster,” the spokesman said.
So far, since the Victorian reminder campaign began on November 24, the health department has called more than 7800 people and texted 19,300 people, he said.
“The campaign will continue to expand as more Victorians become eligible for their booster dose.”
People in NSW can also book in advance for boosters at state-run vaccination clinics, and those who got their initial doses through state hubs will receive a reminder through whichever system they used to book. The state has also launched its own advertising campaign targeting frontline healthcare workers and aged care workers.
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