Western Australia's uptake of fourth COVID-19 booster second-lowest in the country – ABC News

For the latest flood and weather warnings, search on ABC Emergency
Federal data reveals Western Australia has the country's second-lowest rate of fourth-dose vaccinations for COVID-19, prompting calls for better public education to stop a spike in more severe cases. 
Department of Health and Aged Care statistics this month showed just 38.7 per cent of the eligible population in WA had received a fourth dose of the vaccine, compared with 91 per cent for the first dose.
Only the Northern Territory had a lower rate of 27.3 per cent for the fourth dose.
Australian Medical Association WA president Mark Duncan-Smith said plummeting booster rates would lead to waning immunity in the population and a rise in severe cases, like those that led to widespread restrictions before vaccines were approved.
"There is good evidence that the more severe, and the more … times someone gets COVID, the more chance of organ damage and long COVID," he said.
"It's also clear that vaccinations help prevent severe disease."
Mr Duncan-Smith said more state government education programs that encouraged people to stay up to date with their vaccines would keep vaccination rates higher in the long term.
He said boosters would ensure immunity against frequently emerging new variants in a similar way to influenza vaccines designed to target specific strains.
"It's the same concept of flu but this is a much worse disease than flu," Mr Duncan-Smith said.
"It's not just about keeping your immunity to COVID up. It's keeping your immunity to the specific problematic variant up as we move into the future."
The WA Department of Health said continued vaccination for COVID-19 was important in the long term.
"Published studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness wanes after four to six months, following the two-dose primary schedule," a spokesperson said.
"People who received booster doses had a lower rate of infection and severe disease compared to people who did not have a booster."
The spokesperson said reminder emails were sent to more than 600,000 eligible people who had received previous doses of the vaccine — and were overdue for their booster — in December last year.
They said the state government and the Department of Health continued to undertake comprehensive promotions to encourage Western Australians to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The number of people getting fourth-dose boosters in other states, although higher than WA, has also been trending downward.
On the first day of 2023, experts weigh in on how far Australia — and the world — has come since the pandemic began, and what the next frontiers are going into the new year.
According to federal Department of Health and Aged Care statistics, the jurisdiction with the highest fourth-injection rate was the ACT at 51.1 per cent, compared with the national average of 44.3 per cent.
Jaya Dantas, a professor of international health at the Curtin University School of Population Health, said it was understandable that people had been distracted from the importance of receiving the latest vaccine.
"People are tired," she said.
"It's going to be the fourth year of the pandemic next month onwards … and people [have], in some ways, moved on."
With the potential for the public to be distracted by day-to-day stresses such as the cost of living and rising interest rates, along with climate change and the war in Ukraine, Professor Dantas said state and federal governments should be ramping up public awareness campaigns about vaccinations.
See our full coverage of coronavirus
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)