Declares booster shots aren't an 'optional extra'
- Daniel Andrews said the definition of fully vaccinated would mean three doses
- Victorian Premier said getting a third booster shot was not an 'optional extra'
- State reduced the dose interval between second and third jabs to three months
- Mr Andrews said announcement meant up to two million residents were eligible
- He said he wouldn't rule out mandating third dose of vaccine for other industries
Daniel Andrews has warned the definition of being 'fully vaccinated' against Covid will soon change to involving three doses.
The Victorian premier, known for his tough Covid rules, noted that his government had already mandated workers in several industries to get boosters.
'This is not an option, not an add-on, not a "good thing to have", he said.
'I think we're close to a change in policy that will simply reflect the fact that in order to be fully protected you need three doses, not two plus an optional extra.'
It comes as the premier announced the interval between the second and third vaccine doses would be reduced to three months.
The premier said the number of people coming forward for a third jab needed to increase every single day as a 'common sense' response to the virus.
Mr Andrews said the definition of 'fully-vaccinated' would soon come to mean those who had received three doses and said he wouldn't rule out mandating the third jab for workers other than healthcare staff.
He said his government was looking to ramp up booster rates by extending testing clinic opening hours and adding more cubicles and walk-in capacity.
Eligible residents with a 'spare 20 minutes' were urged to book an appointment for a third dose to ensure they were protected amid surging Omicron cases.
'We want it to be as easy as possible for the maximum number of people to get their third dose. That's the most important thing,' he told reporters.
VICTORIAN WORKERS MANDATED TO GET A THIRD VACCINATION
- The booster mandate will apply to healthcare, aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facilities, quarantine accommodation and food distribution workers (not including retail supermarket staff).
- Workers that are eligible for a third dose as of January 12 will have until February 12 to receive their vaccine.
- Workers not eligible for a third dose will be required to be boosted within three months and two weeks from the second mandatory dose deadlines:
- Residential aged-care workers have until March 1
- Disability, quarantine accommodation, corrections facilities, emergency services, and food distribution have until March 12
- Healthcare workers have until March 29
Source: Victorian Government
His announcement on dose intervals means millions of Victorians who had their second dose three months ago are now eligible for their third.
'That interval has been reduced down to three months effective immediately,' the premier said on Wednesday.
'That's on the advice of our public health team, consistent with ATAGI's broader statement. It's safe. It's effective.'
The number of eligible residents has soared to about two million with clinics gearing up for a big weekend of vaccination to increase booster rates.
Major hubs at Sandown, Bendigo and La Trobe University have extended their hours and opened up tens of thousands of additional appointments.
The booster blitz comes as Victoria recorded 20,769 new local Covid cases and 18 more deaths overnight on Wednesday.
There are currently 1,173 people in hospital being treated with the virus, with 125 in intensive care units and 42 of those using a ventilator.
On Tuesday, the state implemented an unprecedented 'Code Brown' as healthcare workers are stretched thin amid rising Covid hospitalisations.
Under the new policy, healthcare workers can have their leave cancelled, be redeployed to different departments and elective procedures cancelled.
The state government could be forced to backflip on a decision to define IVF procedures as 'non-urgent' after the ruling caused major backlash.
Hopeful parents in the midst of gruelling procedures took to social media to accuse the government of robbing them of their last chance to have children.
Acting Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday promised IVF services would be resumed 'as quickly as possible' after being slammed for the 'cruel' policy.
The Code Brown will be implemented across the state and will affect all Melbourne public hospitals and major regional hospitals.
Mr Andrews said the extra demands the Code Brown would place on Victoria's health service and its workers was appreciated by the community.
'I just want to send a really clear message to all of our health workers, regardless of what role you play in the system, all of us as Victorians are deeply grateful to you for your commitment, for your compassion and for the role that you play every hour of every shift,' he said on Wednesday.
'It's understood and we honour that work and we do appreciate that things are very challenging in our health system at the moment.'
The reduced interval between doses comes after the Victorian government on Monday moved to mandate a third dose for workers in several industries.
Those mandated to get a third jab include aged care and disability workers, healthcare workers, emergency service workers, and correctional facility workers.
People in hotel quarantines, food distribution and abattoir, meat, poultry and seafood processing are also part of the mandate.
Workers who are eligible for a third dose have until February 12 to get vaccinated while those not currently eligible have three months and two weeks from the date they received their second dose.
By Olivia Day