Australia discarded almost 20% of its national Covid vaccine supply amidst fear of another wave. What’s next?

On wastage 

It was announced that from 11.59pm on 12 October, Victorians will no longer be required to report a positive COVID-19 test to health authorities nor to isolate after testing positive to COVID-19. 

On the back of this announcement, it was also reported almost 20% of the national Covid vaccine supply was discarded last month. Leading epidemiologists and doctors have warned we may face another wave of COVID cases around November when existing immunity starts to wane. 

The Department of Health defended the number of doses being thrown away, as the World Health Organization stipulates that for multi-dose vaccines an acceptable level of wastage is between 15% and 40%. 

“We carefully manage vaccine stocks to minimise wastage and ensure that all doses are distributed efficiently and effectively,” a spokesperson for the department told The Guardian. “While all avenues to avoid wastage are explored, wastage can be expected as part of any vaccination program.”

An associate principal research fellow at the Burnet Institute, Mike Toole, said about 20% was a normal amount of wastage, but the booster rate was concerning. 

Will Omicron-Moderna increase booster uptake?

Millions more vaccines are set to arrive in the country at the end of the year, with the first Omicron-specific version of the Moderna available to the public already.

The Guardian reported that “More than 95% of eligible Australians have had two doses of a Covid vaccine since the rollout began in February last year, while 72% have received a third shot and only 40% a fourth.

This growing gap in immunisation may leave the population open for a new wave of cases in November, modelling from the University of South Australia suggests.

“Basically in South Australia, the modeling has estimated another wave in November simply because of waning immunity, and it’s likely to happen nationwide,” said Prof Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia.

While it may not peak as high as BA.5 Omicron strain, a slow booster rollout could lead inevitably to an increase in hospitalisations.

“Our booster rate has been creeping up very slowly, it’s only really gone up 5% over the last few months,” Toole said.

The Moderna Bivalent booster appointments will be made available at Heathershaw’s within the next 24 to 48 hours.

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