Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has denied that he was involved in the state premier’s push to mandate the third vaccine at the public hearing of the Pandemic Declaration Accountability and Oversight Committee on Jan. 31.
The committee, which was created as part of the controversial pandemic bill that passed parliament on Dec. 2, allows the state premier and health minister to declare a pandemic order under the advice of the chief health officer.
At the hearing, Sutton said he has not provided official advice to the government on the plan to mandate a third vaccine.
“I haven’t been requested to provide advice on broader vaccine mandates at this stage,” he said and asserted that his advice to not push for a one-size-fits all booster has not changed.
“When and if I get a request from the Minister for advice on those potential measures, I’ll be very happy to assess the epidemiological situation at that time and to provide my recommendations on how that might change if at all.”
When asked if the state premier, Daniel Andrews, had been making decisions without his advice, Sutton said he did not think there has been any decisions made in regards to mandating boosters.
However, Andrews has more than once flagged that he wanted to change the definition for fully vaccinated from two shots to three.
Ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Jan. 27, Andrews said he was pushing for a redefinition of the term “fully vaccinated.”
The premier said, “only three doses” could help people be “properly protected against serious illness” and prepared for “whatever’s next to hit us, whether variant’s coming down the track.”
Though his contention was not echoed by the national cabinet, Andrews reiterated his stance again on Jan. 30 at a press conference.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before the relevant federal agencies confirmed that this is three doses, that it’s not two plus a bonus,” Andrews said at the press conference on Jan. 30.
“Boosters are really what should be referred to as third doses, the term ‘booster’ kind of gives people the impression that this is optional, extra; it’s not. All the all the evidence supports that and it’s only a matter of time before the decision comes down to formalise that.”
In his testimony, Sutton did note that vaccination is the best response to the virus.
“It does also reduce getting the symptomatic effects of the virus, which is why it’s important to make it widely available,” he told the hearing.
When asked if the state is expecting anymore peaks in hospitalisations and in the ICU, Sutton said he expects that the state was currently at a peak or maybe the peak has already passed.
“I think it’s unlikely to go above 1500 hospitalisations, and I think it’s probably already peaked,” he said.
Sutton said there may be bumps and plateaus in the numbers but “it won’t significantly increase from the position we’re in right now.”
More hearings will take place over the course of this year.
The testimony by Sutton comes as the state’s Health Minister Martin Foley (pdf) also announced that vaccination hubs would be set up at museums, aquariums, and zoos for vulnerable Victorian children.
Victoria’s pop-ups for kids, also called ‘K-pops’ will start at nine initial locations across Melbourne, each site will be able to administer up to 100 doses to children each week and is part of the state-run, enchanted forest-theme vaccination network across the state.
As of Feb. 1, there has been 11,311 new cases in Victoria and 851 Victorians hospitalised, the highest single-day hospitalisations is 1229 on Jan. 17.
AAP contributed to this report.