All people aged over 60 will be able to receive mRNA coronavirus vaccines from Friday, federal health minister Greg Hunt says.
The age group previously was ineligible for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, although some states such as South Australia started to offer Pfizer to anyone over 12 earlier this month.
The eligibility followed Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice that younger people were at slightly greater risk of rare side-effects from the AstraZeneca jab.
Hunt said AstraZeneca had allowed the nation to get more than 94% of people over 70 years old vaccinated and had saved hundreds of lives.
But the government estimates more than 300,000 people 60 years and older are yet to be vaccinated because they are waiting for access to the other jabs.
“We will see in the coming weeks how many of those take it up. Our view has always been we have an outstanding world-class vaccine in AstraZeneca,” Hunt said.
“This is the opportunity for every person over 60 to come forward no matter what previous hesitation they may have had.”
It came as Victoria recorded 1438 coronavirus cases on Thursday, up from 950 the day prior, marking the highest daily number of any state during the pandemic.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the lift in cases followed transmission in homes due to people breaching lockdown restrictions, particularly during the AFL grand final long weekend.
“Many hundreds of people, perhaps thousands of people have made some choices that mean they are spending time not in their own home but in someone else’s home,” he said.
Contact tracing has linked about 500 of the cases to social gatherings, according to COVID commander Jeroen Weimar.
Meanwhile, Andrews is hopeful a reduction of the interval between first and second dose Pfizer vaccinations will bring forward the state’s 70% double-dose target, currently set for around October 27.
The interval will reduce from six down to three weeks in state clinics from October 4. “We have enough confirmation [of vaccine supply] to be certain enough about what’s coming to us,” Andrews said.
Queensland recorded six new local cases of the virus on Thursday and tightened restrictions in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, Logan, Townsville and Palm Island.
The restrictions limit gatherings in homes and public spaces to 30 people.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the next 48 hours would be crucial to monitor for community transmission.
“I think everyone realises we have to put these restrictions in place if we are to avoid a lockdown,” she said.
South Australia also recorded one new case on Thursday from a truck driver who travelled to and from Melbourne.