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  • Jason Regan

Vic awaits ATAGI before vax mandate call

Victoria is waiting for updated advice from Australia's expert immunisation group before making a call on whether to mandate third COVID-19 doses for more workers and venues.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Tuesday said Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is yet to be consulted on a plan to expand the state's third jab mandate because the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation was still considering the issue.

For several weeks now, Premier Daniel has been suggesting people would soon need three doses to be deemed "fully vaccinated" instead of two.

Prof Sutton on Monday revealed at a parliamentary inquiry he had not been consulted by the state government on the matter.

"(ATAGI) are very close to resolving that," Mr Foley told reporters on Tuesday.
"I would expect that to be three doses when it comes to dealing with Omicron for the majority of the community and indeed four doses when it comes to immunocompromised and vulnerable people."

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton speaks to the media during a press conference in Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Once their advice is provided to the national cabinet, he said states and territories will determine how best to increase third dose take-up, including possibly broadening vaccine mandates.

Tens of thousands of Victorian workers in key sectors such as health and aged care, disability, emergency services and food distribution have been given until February 12 to get their third jab, while the deadline is February 25 for most education staff.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said it was "silly" to mandate third, fourth and fifth vaccine doses, labelling it "heavy-handed".

"That's the language of 2020, it's not the language of 2022," he said.

It comes after Victoria posted 11,311 new COVID-19 cases and 34 virus-related deaths on Tuesday, taking its toll across the pandemic past 2000. Thirteen of the deaths occurred within the last two days, Mr Foley said.

Despite COVID-19 patient numbers continuing to fall, Victoria is not rushing to follow NSW's plan to restart non-urgent elective surgery. Hospitalisations with COVID-19 in Victoria have dropped by 22 to 851 and there are 106 people in intensive care, including 30 on a ventilator.

Mr Foley said the Victorian government is consulting with private and public hospitals "every day" about turning less urgent elective surgery back on.

"I do note that in NSW (the resumption is) for private hospitals and some regional hospitals - it's not a return to normal operations," he said.

Meanwhile, nine pop-up vaccination sites will open at venues such as Scienceworks, Melbourne Zoo and Sealife Aquarium from February 12 to boost jab rates among vulnerable children and those living with a disability.

Each site will be able to administer 100 doses a day and appointments will initially be by invitation-only.


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