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Coronavirus booster jab more important than ever, expert warns

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Australians are today being urged to ensure they receive their COVID-19 booster jabs as a new Omicron strain takes hold in New South Wales.

Epidemiologist Margaret Hellard told Today this morning the emergence of the new BA.5 Omicron subvariant in NSW was a wake-up call for the entire country.

"It's a concern because if you've had previous infection your protection is not as great. A number of Australians have now had previous COVID-19 infection," Professor Hellard, of the Burnett Institute in Melbourne, said.

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The new BA.5 subvariant has tripled in cases NSW since the start of this month, overtaking BA.2 as the most prevalent variant in the state, the latest respiratory surveillance report, released today, showed.

Cases of the BA.2 variant peaked in NSW around March.

The emergence of the new BA.5 comes amid concern millions of Australians are putting off their coronavirus booster jabs.

Professor Hellard said coronavirus wasn't going away any time soon and people needed to top up their immunity levels.

"People need to go out and get their vaccines their booster doses if they haven't had the third dose. Get vaccinated, get your children vaccinated," she said.

Health authorities are concerned a new wave of coronavirus together with rising flu cases over winter will put a strain on essential services.

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Professor Hellard said research projected more than 10,000 Australians will die from coronavirus this year.

"But there's things we can do to stop that. We shouldn't think we're not all in a position to do so," she said.

NSW has a lower uptake of COVID-19 boosters than everywhere except the Northern Territory and Queensland, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

From NSW people aged 16 and over, 35 per cent have not had a third dose.

A fourth booster shot is also available for people aged 65 and over or with certain health conditions.

The BA.5 sub-variant originated in South Africa and is now taking hold in parts of Europe and the US.



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