Nearly nine out of ten Australian adults are banned from getting a Covid booster shot before Christmas as case numbers spiral out of control in NSW.
Almost 88 per cent of the adult population is currently blocked by a mandatory five month waiting period between second and third doses, despite the waiting time being slashed to just three months overseas.
Even on Christmas Day, 84 per cent will still be blocked from getting the jab, sparking a furious backlash online.
It comes as NSW Health predicted up to 25,000 cases a day by the end of January and Australian Medical Association warning the booster rollout isn’t up to the job.
And for those who are eligible to get the jab, appointments are hard to come by with experts admitting the system is plagued by delays.
ABC star Marieke Hardy, who is also unable to get a third Covid dose until February, tweeted on Wednesday: ‘This is slightly terrifying.’
Nearly nine out of ten Australian adults are banned from getting a Covid booster shot (pictured) before Christmas as case numbers spiral out of control in NSW
Despite health officials telling Australians to get their third vaccine shot as soon as possible before Christmas, just 16 per cent of adults will be eligible by December 25.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has ruled the general population must wait at least five months after their second vaccine dose before they can get their booster shot.
That waiting period has already been reduced from an initial six months between second and third jabs, but there are growing calls to reduce it further.
On July 15, just 12.5 per cent of the adult population was fully vaxxed, making them eligible for a booster shot from December 15. On July 25, that figure had risen to just 16.3 per cent.
But that means the 83.7 per cent not fully vaxxed by July 25 will face Christmas without a top-up jab – and the rules are being rigidly applied at vaccination clinics.
On Tuesday, one Sydney man attempted to get a booster jab 13 days early but was repeatedly refused, despite being eligible on December 27, when clinics are closed over Christmas.
Now the nation faces a population going to Christmas parties and mixing with families while vulnerable to the new Omicron strain – and often without masks.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid (pictured right with Prime Minister Scott Morrison) has warned the booster rollout is already falling behind and risking a repeat of mistakes seen overseas where Omicron has spread rapidly
If the waiting period is shortened to four months, almost a third of the adult population will be eligible before Christmas.
And if the period is brought down to just three months, more than half the nation’s adult could get their third jab and enjoy the festive season in safety.
On Wednesday, NSW reported 1360 new cases, up from 795 in 24 hours, on the day almost all Covid restrictions were axed in the state despite the new variant arrival.
In Victoria, cases remain around 1,000-1,400 a day but officials are expecting a massive surge if Omicron takes hold.
As numbers soar, NSW health minister Brad Hazzard warned locals to brace for up to 25,000 cases a day by the end of January, even with the booster program.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard (pictured) warned locals to brace for up to 25,000 cases a day by the end of January, even with the booster program
The third jab rollout has already come under fire from the Australian Medical Association for dragging its heels for the lucky few who are eligible.
So far just 771,682 have been given a booster, with the AMA warning it is already falling behind and risking a repeat of mistakes seen overseas where Omicron has spread rapidly.
‘GPs and pharmacists are not being properly supported to implement this critical booster program,’ AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
‘Last week GPs around the country administered about 251,000 vaccine doses, including booster shots. Compare this to mid-October when GPs were administering about 975,000 vaccines doses each week.
So far just 771,682 have been given a booster, including Coordinator General of Operation COVID Shield Lieutenant General John Frewen, seen here getting his third dose on Tuesday
‘Omicron poses a significant potential risk to the population and appears much more transmissible than previous strains, so we have to pick up the pace to protect the community.
‘It is spreading rapidly in countries around the world, and from what we know the only protection we can offer at this stage is extra immunity through a booster dose.’
He said government cutbacks were making it hard for doctors to deliver even the limited booster shots they were permitted to give.
‘Unless primary care is supported, the booster program will fall further behind, and millions of Australians will be put at greater risk,’ he said.
ABC star Marieke Hardy (pictured), who is also unable to get a third Covid dose until February, tweeted on Wednesday: ‘This is slightly terrifying’
‘The return of stringent public health restrictions will once again be inevitable.’
There has been a bitter reaction on social media as many – especially younger adults who were last in line for the vaccine – now face anxious months without a booster.
ABC identity Marieke Hardy tweeted on Wednesday: ‘This is slightly terrifying.
‘I’m not due for a booster until February…Are the rest of us double vaxxed and waiting just supposed to stay indoors for the next two months??’
One of her followers insisted: ‘We should be getting boosters three months after second shot.’
But another admitted they had also been turned away while trying to get their booster early: ‘I spoke to the chemist yesterday who gave me my second AZ and she said they can’t give me the third based on the five month advice.’
Almost 88 per cent of the adult population is currently blocked by a mandatory five month waiting period between second and third doses (pictured)
Another said: ‘Late January for me. I asked if I could bring it forward and was told by my GPs receptionist that they had to adhere to the rules.
‘Well, I say change the rules!’
Others said they would play safe until the booster was available.
‘I will hibernate until middle January before I get my booster,’ said one. ‘I’m feeling all what we went through over the last two year was for naught.
‘The neo-cons got their way and will let it rip.’
Some said they were prepared to wait it out until they were eligible but were told they couldn’t get a confirmed booking at this stage because of stock issues.
Some said they were prepared to wait it out until they were eligible but were told they couldn’t get a confirmed booking at this stage because of stock issues (pictured, a queue at a pop-up vaccination clinic in Sydney)
There has been a bitter reaction on social media (pictured) as many – especially younger adults who were last in line for the vaccine – now face anxious months without a booster
‘I tried to book my booster for January as that’s when I’m eligible – could only put my name down on a waiting list as GP not sure if and when they can get doses.,’ tweeted one. ‘Currently out of stock.’
Many were furious that they had gone with the Astra Zeneca option only for it to have limited resilience against the new strain and they are exposed while they wait to be eligible for the booster.
But some were hopeful ATAGI would revise their advice again and bring forward the booster shot eligibility in the face of the Omicron onslaught.
‘I got AZ. Week later I could’ve got Pfizer,’ said one. ’12 week wait for second changed to 8. Got mine after 10. Six months for third is now five.
‘I’ve got a feeling this will change too.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Department of Health for comment.