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Booster program needs funding rethink: GPs

Doctors say much work and a new funding deal is needed to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine booster program is rolled out properly.

Australia’s population-wide coronavirus vaccine booster shot program could start in less than two weeks after the medicines regulator gave the green light.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval for Australians 18 and over to receive a top-up dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those who were vaccinated at least six months ago.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is now preparing advice on the rollout.

Aged care residents and people with disabilities are expected to receive third jabs as a priority.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said the government would need to review funding arrangements for GPs involved in the booster program.

“It is now important the government gets the details of the booster program right and gives GPs adequate notice of its implementation once ATAGI makes its final recommendation,” he said.

He said the current funding model was not fit for purpose, having been designed to support the initial two-dose program.

“The government will need to ensure general practice is properly funded to reach out to patients using recall systems and assess patients as well as administer booster shots,” he said.

Australia is set to reach an 80 per cent double vaccination rate in a matter of days, ahead of the international border reopening next week.

“On Monday, Australia will be taking off again as international travel restrictions are lifted,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families will be prioritised to travel back to Australia when international travel restarts.

However, the prime minister told parliament it was likely all international travellers, including tourists, would be able to come into country by the end of the year.

Exemption requirements for international travel will be scrapped from November 1 for the fully vaccinated.

Those who are yet to be fully vaccinated will still need to apply for an exemption.

The most recent vaccine figures have shown 87.4 per cent of the population have had their first dose, while 74.8 per cent are fully vaccinated.

There are hopes vaccines can soon be extended to children aged between five and 11 with a United States panel of health advisers endorsing the move.

A decision by the US Food and Drug Administration is expected within days, as studies show high rates of infection prevention even with low doses of the vaccine in young children.

Australian regulators are also weighing up evidence ahead of a decision.

There were 1534 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths reported in Victoria on Wednesday, and 304 new infections in NSW, along with three deaths.

Queensland registered no new cases after the Sunshine State had two infections on Tuesday.

There were 10 new cases in Canberra.

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