Covid-19 booster shots essential, say frontline workers

The Australian, 13 September 2021

Paramedics and patient transport workers are calling on the federal government to urgently outline a plan for Covid-19 booster shots, due to rising concerns the first two doses will wear off in a number of months.

In a recent survey of the NSW Ambulance and Patient Transport membership of the Health Services Union, 79 per cent believe workers should receive a booster, even if it’s ahead of ­others in the community who want to be vaccinated but have not yet had the opportunity.

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes wrote to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation on Monday to fast-track the booster shot process for workers prioritised in Phase 1a of the rollout, due to concerns over the “waning effectiveness” of Australia’s current approved vaccines “some months after a second dose has been administered”.

“Our NSW members in Ambulance and Patient Transport are currently treating and transporting far in excess of 1500 Covid-positive patients a week, often spending hours in confined spaces,” the letter, obtained by The Australian, reads.

“Our members rely on PPE and a strong vaccination status to remain safe and able to continue to perform their important role in fighting the pandemic.

“On that basis, we trust ATAGI will issue early advice on the rollout of boosters to Australia’s Phase 1a workforce at the most clinically appropriate time for individual 1a workers and their families.”

Mr Hayes cited a study from Israel’s Gertner Institute and KI Institute in collaboration with the health ministry, which proved a booster shot could deliver an 11-fold reduction in confirmed infections. It also suggested a 15-fold drop in the risk of severe disease.

Campbelltown paramedic and HSU delegate Tess Oxley said it was “absolutely necessary” the government began issuing booster shots to those on the front line, to protect them and the wider community.

“I work in southwest Sydney, and … the viral load we are facing daily is quite high,” she said.