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Victoria recorded 20,180 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths on Tuesday as coronavirus vaccine boosters became available to severely immunocompromised children.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group recommended on Monday that five to 11-year-olds with a medical condition affecting their immune system get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine two to four months after their second shot.

ATAGI has tweaked the rules for children’s COVID-19 vaccinations. It now recommends children with weakened immune systems get a third dose of the vaccine.Credit:Joe Armao

The expert vaccination group also recommended severely immunocompromised adults receive a fourth dose of the vaccine four months after their third jab.

“This is expected to improve protection against symptomatic infection, serious illness or death from COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant,” ATAGI wrote.

The changes to Australia’s vaccination guidelines come as Victoria braces for a spike in hospital admissions in the coming weeks, despite indications the latest Omicron wave is starting to flatten.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Monday lower transmission rates over the past four days indicated the outbreak had possibly peaked and might begin to stabilise.

He said the state was likely to experience a surge in people needing hospital care in the next two weeks, as hospitalisation rates caught up with infections, while the number of people in intensive care with the virus could peak in three weeks, then, hopefully, start dropping some time in February.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but I do think we are reasonably close to a peak if we’re not at a peak already,” he told reporters on Monday.

Modelling by Chris Billington, a physics researcher at the University of Melbourne, predicts Victoria will record between 12,500 and 19,000 cases on Monday next week. On the current trajectory, his model projects daily case numbers could be at half their current level within 16 days.

There are currently 235,035 active coronavirus infections across Victoria. Of those, 1152 are being cared for in hospital, with 127 in intensive care and 43 on a ventilator.

Of the new cases announced by health authorities on Tuesday, 8433 were diagnosed through PCR testing and another 11,747 were self-reported results from rapid antigen tests.

In New South Wales there was a record 36 deaths recorded on Tuesday and 29,830 new cases of COVID-19. More than 46 per cent of the cases came from self-reported positive rapid antigen tests, the rest were positive PCR results.

More than 20,562 Victorians received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at state-run sites on Monday, increasing the state’s vaccine coverage to 93 per cent for people aged 12 and over. To date, 24 per cent of eligible Victorians have received a booster shot.

As of Monday, there were more than 174,000 vaccination appointments available across Victoria over the next month, including about 34,000 slots for children.

Of the 125,000 vaccine bookings made in the past seven days, 83,000 were for people to receive booster shots. Another 39,000 appointments were for children aged five to 11 to receive their first dose.

With Paul Sakkal

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