The state was one of the first to implement sweeping vaccination mandates, with 75 percent of WA’s workforce—more than one million workers—needing to be double dosed by February next year.
Those workers will now be required to get a booster shot five months after their second dose after the official health advice reduced the time frame down from six months.
WA Premier Mark McGowan urged West Australians to get vaccinated amid concerns the Omicron variant will spread to the state.
“The emergence of Omicron throughout the world and on the east coast is extremely concerning—case numbers are skyrocketing, as are the number of people in hospital,” McGowan said.
However, the statement goes directly against health advice made by the federal government and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly the same day, who said that while cases had risen, hospitalisations had not.
“So far, we have not seen a rise in hospitalisations,” Kelly said on Dec. 22, hours before McGowan’s announcement.
“As I understand it, there’s only one person in intensive care. So even with those rising numbers, it’s mainly cases—not hospitalisations—at the moment.”
The WA government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
McGowan added that evidence had shown a third booster dose would improve resistance against the new variant.
“The latest research shows that a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has the potential to raise your protection against Omicron to more than 86 percent against symptomatic disease and more than 98 percent against severe infection.”
WA has recently announced it will be easing border restrictions from Feb. 5, 2022—the date the state is projected to reach 90 percent fully vaccinated—for double dosed travellers. It will also reintroduce state-wide protective mask mandates and implement stricter vaccine passports for regions with lower vaccination rates.
However, tens of thousands of West Australians have opposed the vaccination mandates, coming out to protest on numerous occasions in the last several months.
The state lags behind nationally on vaccination uptake, currently sitting at 82.3 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
It is estimated that 39,000 workers in WA could lose their jobs as a result of the mandates, a figure which is estimated to cost the state economy around $2.9 billion.
Some members of WA Police have also launched a legal challenge against the mandates, securing a small win last week that kept unvaccinated staff from being fired until the next supreme court hearing on Dec. 23.