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Australian COVID Booster Vaccine Program Stalls


FILE - A technician prepares a Pfizer vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Sydney, Australia, May 10, 2021.

A new study in Australia shows that migrants from non-English-speaking countries are significantly less likely than other groups to have received a third or fourth COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 95% of eligible Australians have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine since the rollout began in February of last year. Far fewer have received a third shot, and only 40% a fourth injection.

Australian National University research indicates the country’s booster program has stalled. It highlights reluctance to take vaccines among the poorer and less educated.

The study also suggests Australians with right-leaning political views, who have less confidence in government, are also less likely to have received a booster.

The survey sampled the views of 3,500 adults in Australia.

The lead author is ANU professor Nicholas Biddle, who cited high levels of reluctance among some migrant groups.

“Those from a non-English-speaking background are less likely to engage with the type of media, which, you know, vaccines are talked about and discussed and the importance of it is discussed,” he said. “[They are] less likely to see the messages about the importance of a booster dose, less able to manage and work through what can be a relatively complex, kind of, health system and that can be a barrier for those whose first language isn’t English.”

The Australian government offers COVID-19 information in dozens of languages and aims to make its advice as accessible as possible.

Health Minister Mark Butler said he is also planning the next phases of the vaccine rollout with major drug companies.

“We are also keen to make sure that the contracts we do have with Moderna and Pfizer can be varied to ensure that Australians have access to the most up-to-date version of the vaccines, which is these what we call bivalent vaccines that not only target the original strain of the COVID virus, but also Omicron strains as well,” he said.

Australia has low rates of COVID-19 transmission, and few pandemic restrictions remain. Mandatory isolation requirements for Australians testing positive to the virus will end October 14.

The scrapping of compulsory isolation removes one of Australia’s last remaining pandemic restrictions.

Health and Aged Care Department Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Friday the country’s emergency response to the virus is coming to an end, but warned the pandemic isn’t over and said he expected infections to peak again.

Australia has been recording about 5,500 new COVID-19 cases each day. It had some of the world’s toughest coronavirus measures and closed its borders to most foreign nationals for more than two years.

But life is beginning to resemble what it was like before COVID-19.

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