Omicron Variant Expected to Stay, Says Expert

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.
December 9, 2021 Updated: December 9, 2021

Vaccine expert and chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Jane Halton said Omicron would most likely replace Delta and become the dominant strain.

“It’s arrived, and we’re now seeing it spreading not just in Sydney but elsewhere,” Halton told the Nine Network on Thursday.

“I think the horse has bolted.”

The news comes as Pfizer released a new study on Dec. 8, showing that the Pfizer vaccine booster was effective prevention against the Omicron variant.

Halton said more work was being undertaken to determine how effective COVID-19 vaccines would be against the Omicron variant.

“We all need to remember we don’t have a lot of data yet, but it certainly doesn’t look like [Omicron] is going to cause lots of severe disease and death,” she said.

“That’s great if true, but it’s still early days, the WHO (World Health Organisation) is optimistic, so I think we all can be optimistic.”

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has indicated Australia’s booster rollout would be prepared if medical experts advise for it to be put forward against the Omicron variant.

Currently, people who have taken their second shot must wait for six months until they are eligible for a booster. However, medical experts are to examine whether the timeframe can be reduced.

Morrison has expressed that all was ready to go if the ATAGI and medical advisers approve of reducing the timeframe between the second dose and the booster shot.

“We’ve already talked to ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) about what the period should be of an interval between the second dose and a booster shot. And, so, we will just continue to take our counsel from them on those issues.” Morrison said on Thursday at Geelong.

“Of course, we would strongly support that, and we’re ready to go if that’s what they would like to do.”
Morrison said health authorities were prepared should advice surrounding booster shots change.

“[Health officials] will continue to keep that under close watch as to whether [boosters] can be brought forward with new information.”

A final decision on approval from the medical team is expected next week.

Across Australia, more than 88 percent of over-16s are fully vaccinated, while 93 percent have had their first dose.

There were 420 new infections in NSW reported on Thursday, including eight Omicron cases, and one death.

In Victoria, until Dec. 9, the state had acquired 1232 new cases and nine deaths, while the ACT had four infections.

Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.