CANBERRA, AAP – The federal government will commit $2.1 billion ahead of winter to prepare for an expected COVID-19 surge alongside a deadly flu season.
The winter plan was requested by national cabinet to ensure the country and health systems were prepared for spikes in respiratory illnesses and will be a major topic of discussion at Friday’s meeting.
An epidemiology and vaccine rollout update will also be provided to national cabinet, with the leaders due to discuss moving onto the final stage of the national pandemic plan and the Japanese encephalitis virus.
The government will shore up stock of Japanese encephalitis vaccines, with 130,000 doses to be purchased under a new $69 million package to combat the virus.
At least two Australians have now died from the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause the brain to swell in serious cases.
Enhanced surveillance activities across mosquito, animal and humans, as well as further modelling and scientific capabilities, also form part of the package.
The Commonwealth will also extend its COVID-19 partnership with states and territories – which sees it cover half of health-related costs – for an additional three months to September 30, 2022 due to ongoing costs associated with the Omicron outbreak.
The government says it’s spent more than $41 billion on Australia’s health response since the start of the pandemic.
It comes as the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave the nod to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to apply to use it in children and adolescents.
Novavax is currently approved for use in adults aged 18 and over.
The company has indicated it intends to apply for the provisional registration for those aged 12 and older in April and for children aged between five and 11 later in the year.