A leading infectious disease expert has urged the federal government to focus efforts on getting more older Australians their COVID-19 booster.
Professor Peter Collignon of the Australian National University said the effectiveness of boosters in protecting people from serious illness or death from COVID-19 was much greater for people aged over 50.
“We need to change the messaging around boosters…the older you are, the more you benefit from the booster,” Professor Collignon told AAP on Monday.
“Everyone needs a booster, but some people benefit more than others, especially older people.”
It comes after NSW recorded five deaths from COVID-19 in the last reporting period, all over the age of 60.
While all five deaths in the state had been doubly vaccinated, none had received their booster shots.
The latest vaccination figures showed more than 11.8 million Australians had received their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This figure represents more than 64% of the eligible population, however, the recall rate is stagnating.
With the rate of the population taking their first course of the vaccine being almost 95 per cent, Professor Collignon said there was no reason that figure could not be replicated for a third dose.
“For people over 50, we should aim to have recall at the same level at over 90%,” he said.
“People are still stuck in a zero-COVID mindset, and we need to be different in our approach.
“Those most at risk are older, and that’s where death rates will be highest if we don’t increase the recall rate.”
While the number of daily COVID cases across the country had largely stabilized, Professor Collignon said it would take a few more weeks for the death rate from the virus to follow.
He warned that while the situation will improve in the coming months, it could still change when winter arrives.
“Ongoing cases will slowly decrease, and in July and August they will pick up again because more people are inside,” he said.
“The next concern is where the virus is getting in…winter is a risk. I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a lot we can do to prevent it.”
South Australia has added 23 deaths to its COVID-19 toll that occurred between December 31 and March 3.
The adjustment brings the total number of SA deaths from the pandemic to 213.
There have been five COVID-related deaths in NSW, two in Victoria and one each in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
The number of cases exceeded 22,000, including 9,017 in NSW, 5,645 in Victoria, 3,677 in Queensland, 2,365 in WA, 1,577 in SA, 784 in Tasmania, 553 in ACT and 235 in the Northern Territory.
Australian Associated Press