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Victorian COVID cases jump, another 15 deaths

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Victoria has reported 21,966 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths, as the interval between second and third vaccine doses shortens to three months at state hubs.

The new infections, confirmed by the health department on Thursday, were made up of 11,693 from PCR tests and 10,273 from rapid antigen tests.

They bring the total number of active cases in the state to 246,894, which includes 1206 people in hospital, an increase of 33 on Wednesday.

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The number of people in intensive care sits at 122 and there are 40 people on ventilation.

Victoria’s booster rate has risen to 27 per cent after the government immediately slashed the interval to three months at its state-run clinics on Wednesday.

Some 60,000 additional appointments will be available as part of the four-day “booster blitz” beginning on Friday at eight of the state-run vaccination hubs.

Hours at major hubs, including Bendigo, La Trobe University and Sandown, have been extended specifically for the blitz, while more than 100 GPs and pharmacies across the state will receive grants to provide additional appointments at the weekend.

Premier Daniel Andrews flagged the possibility the booster would soon become mandatory for a person to be considered fully vaccinated, noting a mandate was imposed for several essential industries last week.

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Professor Rhonda Stuart, an infectious disease expert who runs the Health Department’s South Eastern Public Health Unit, said people who had a booster shot were less likely to have COVID-19 symptoms if infected, and less likely to be hospitalised.

Fewer than 5 per cent of people in intensive care had received booster shots, she said.

Professor Stuart warned young people against deliberately catching the virus and said natural immunity after infection waned more quickly than that provided by a booster vaccine.

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