All adult Australians who have not had a COVID-19 infection or vaccination in the last six months can get an extra booster shot later this month, regardless of how many vaccine doses they have previously received.
The federal government on Tuesday night accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s updated advice, which comes into effect on February 20 and prefers Omicron-specific mRNA booster vaccines. However, it said all available COVID-19 vaccines would provide a benefit.
All adult Australians who have not had a COVID-19 infection or vaccination in the last six months can get an extra booster shot later this month, regardless of how many vaccine doses they have previously received.Credit:AP
Health Minister Mark Butler encouraged people to protect themselves against severe illness, even as less than half of the eligible Australian population had come forward for their fourth booster dose.
“If you’re 65 or over, or you’re an adult at risk of severe COVID illness, and it’s been six months since your last booster or infection, it’s now time for a booster,” he said.
The ATAGI experts particularly recommended everyone at risk of severe illness – considered to be those aged 65 and over as well as younger adults with comorbidities, disability or complex needs – line up for an additional jab.
Children aged five to 17 with a health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness are also eligible, however, children and teenagers generally were not deemed to need a booster due to low incidences of severe illness and high levels of hybrid immunity.
The latest government figures show that 44.6 per cent of the eligible population (30+ years) have had four COVID vaccine doses while 72.4 per cent of the eligible population (16+ years) have had three.
The new advice does not guarantee Australians will be able to receive a new booster every six months – further recommendations will be determined based on ATAGI’s surveillance of infection rates, new variants and vaccine effectiveness.
Butler said the government had arranged the largest one-month arrival of vaccines into Australia since late 2021, with 10 million Omicron-specific doses due to arrive in February on top of the 4 million in current stock.
He and Aged Care Minister Annika Wells will also write to aged care providers, encouraging them to bring local pharmacists and GPs into their facilities to roll out the extra doses.
A Resolve Political Monitor survey, conducted exclusively for this masthead by research company Resolve Strategic, last month found a fall in the number of adults willing to receive a booster.
While 44 per cent of all respondents said in August they had received three doses and were likely to get a fourth, that fell to 16 per cent in October and 6 per cent in January.
This reflected the fact that some of this group had received the fourth jab during that period, but Resolve director Jim Reed said many also thought the worst of COVID was over.
The latest federal figures from January 31 show there were 2656 COVID-19 cases per day on average – a drop of 16.2 per cent nationally compared to the previous week – while the rolling 7-day average death rate was also declining. There were 198 outbreaks in Australian aged care homes as of February 1.
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