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It’s been revealed some doctors have already been administering Covid-19 booster shots, despite Australia's peak vaccine advisory group only signing off on a top-up Pfizer dose on Thursday.
Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, the former national president of the Australian Medical Association, is among those who have been offering unused doses to frontline workers “for the health of the nation”.
Dr Haikerwal told Yahoo News it was “important to be pragmatic” in a global pandemic rather than wait for bureaucracy to catch up.
“When there have been leftover doses and there have been people who are eligible and at risk for various reasons, we have given them a third shot rather than throw it away,” he explained.
He argued now is the right time to “get on and do it” as evidence of waning vaccine effectiveness emerges from Israel and the US.
“We need to make sure we have maximum protection. The drug is safe, it’s not dangerous, it’s not the wrong thing to do.”
Dr Haikerwal is based in Melbourne, where the number of daily Covid-19 cases has again escalated amid a daunting death toll.
“The reason for doing the booster is not community protection so much but additional security, especially for those in the frontline, whether it’s police, the fire service or medical care, it’s important to keep that protection up,” he said.
Countdown to official booster rollout
The federal government has confirmed booster Pfizer shots will officially be rolled out to the general public from November 8.
It comes after the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave provisional approval on Wednesday for a third dose, with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation signing off on the measures the next day.
Vaccine manufacturer Novavax intends to also submit an application for booster approval, with 51 million doses on order for Australia.
"We have enough vaccines in the country to vaccinate everybody who comes, and as your six months have passed, you will be eligible to come forward," Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.
'Appalling' number of vaccine no-shows
Dr Haikerwal said the amount of boosters he has been administering has been “minimal” and he usually doesn’t have many doses spare.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on Wednesday, when 80 people failed to turn up for their vaccine appointment.
“We had 220 booked for a vaccine, only 140 turned up so we had 80 no shows, which is appalling,” he said.
But those missed doses didn’t become boosters or get thrown up.
“What we did do is make them up as we needed them.”
He said it’s unfortunately a common occurrence.
“Speaking to my colleagues, it seems people are just not turning up and spaces are going begging.
“Not only are people wasting opportunities but delaying full coverage across the population.”
Dr Haikerwal urged anyone who hasn’t had a single shot to urgently book an appointment, warning it will only become harder as boosters become widely available.
“Boosters are a really good outcome for Australia, they are important for the health of the nation.”
Australia's national vaccine rate is expected to pass 80 per cent next week.
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