Parents have been advised to get a booster shot before their children return to school as the government changes make more people eligible for a third dose.
With the start of term one approaching, the race is on to get as many children as possible vaccinated, with 19.09 per cent of NSW children aged five to 11 having received their first dose as of Tuesday.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns has repeated his call for the government to consider turning schools into mass vaccination hubs, calling the idea “a great and efficient way of distributing these vaccines”.
Regardless of vaccination rates, the state government has remained committed to having children back in classrooms on the first day of term.
“We are not moving from that, so everyone has to be prepared,” Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said on Wednesday.
Teachers who are close contacts will be given rapid tests, and will continue to work if they have no symptoms after being reclassified as essential workers.
Students will also be tested twice a week.
While Queensland has postponed school returning, NSW and Victoria have both committed to avoiding any delay.
Australia’s two most populous states are due to present a united schooling plan to national cabinet on Thursday.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says “the numbers will go up and down” as children return to school and urged parents to get booster shots.
Dr Chant says people who have already had COVID-19 can get a booster four to six weeks after they were infected.
Meanwhile, about 1.8 million more NSW residents have become eligible for boosters after the government changed eligibility as bookings “go begging” at vaccination clinics amid a push for people to get their third dose.
The interval between the second and third shot was on Wednesday shortened from four months to three, a change that was not due to happen until the end of January in line with federal government rules for GPs and pharmacies.
It came after state clinics delivered about 180,000 shots last week, well below the 250,000 shots the clinics can provide.
“It’s awful for us to see our bookings in our clinics go begging,” NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said.
The government has been encouraging eligible residents to get boosted as soon as possible amid soaring case numbers and deaths.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Wednesday that boosters “are key to keeping yourself, your friends and your family safe”.