COVID-19 – Omicron update from CMO Professor Paul Kelly – 15 December 2021

An update from Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, about the new Omicron variant of concern.

3:49

Good morning, everyone, Paul Kelly here on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country here in Canberra. I am joined by my trusty AUSLAN interpreter, Ramas, thank you. So, we're here to talk about an Omicron update. I have learnt this morning from Ramas the sign for Omicron, so I will try to do it. I think that's right. Yeah, got it. So, Omicron is still causing us concern, it is a variant of concern, as we have talked about before, by the World Health Organisation, and it is spreading very quickly all around the world. We are learning more about Omicron every day. We know that it is transmissible, we know that it is here in Australia. We have had some good news over night that the severity of Omicron still appears to be relatively mild in most circumstances, but we need to have further information on that over the coming week and we will share that when that comes.

But today I really want to talk about the importance of the booster program. So, we have had amazing success here in Australia looking at the numbers of people that have come forward and been fully vaccinated either with Pfizer, AstraZeneca or the Moderna vaccine. That has been a terrific effort by all Australians. Unfortunately, with this new variant, Omicron, the two dose vaccine schedule is not as effective as it was against previous strains of the virus, such as Delta. So, that really reinforces the need to have a booster shot. So, when I say it is not as protective, what do I mean? There are two protections we get from vaccination. One is, of course, our own protection for ourselves against severe disease. And that actually does continue. We have got good evidence now that with two doses of Pfizer in particular, but also the other vaccines, that does retain some protection against severe disease. Unfortunately, though, that other protection that vaccine gives about becoming infected and infecting others, that transmission effect, is less effective against the Omicron variant than previous types of the virus. So, it is really important, not only for your own personal protection, which is boosted by the booster, but also for protection of others, about that transmission effect, to get that booster when you are due for that. So, in recent days, two important changes to that program. The first one is you can now get a booster with Moderna or Pfizer, which opens up that possibility to anywhere vaccines are available, whether that is a pharmacy, GP surgery, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Clinic, other points of presence, as well as the State and Territory clinics around Australia, all of those places are now giving booster shots. And we are seeing people come forward very, very quickly. Last week we had about 25,000 boosters a day, on Monday it was 75,000, yesterday it was 96,000. So, there is certainly a large increase in people coming forward. So, my main message today, if you have had your second dose five or more months ago, you are now due for a booster. Make that appointment today. And so, please take that seriously, it is a way of protecting you it is a way of protecting those around you, your family and the wider community. Booster shots are absolutely important and very important at controlling this Omicron issue.

So, thanks very much for listening. Thanks, Ramas. We'll see you next time.

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