More people are now eligible to receive a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose, following the latest advice from the country’s chief immunization group.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization has expanded the eligibility for the winter booster dose to include people with health conditions or a disability, following their latest meeting.
The expanded advice is expected to allow more than 1.5 million additional people to receive the fourth vaccine dose, or second booster from May 30.
Previously, the fourth dose has only been available to those 65 and over, those in aged or disability care, people who are severely immunocompromised or Indigenous people aged over 50.
Interim Health Minister Katy Gallagher said it was critical as many people received the fourth dose as possible.
“The idea behind expanding the criteria really has been to ensure that people who are at greatest risk of severe infection … are protected,” she told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
The advice comes ahead of a predicted surge in COVID cases across the country during winter, combined with rising flu cases.
While eligibility has expanded for the second booster, a fourth dose has not yet been recommended for the entire population.
“The reason why it has not been expanded more across the general population is based on evidence,” Senator Gallagher said.
“We have accepted the ATAGI advice in full, but the benefits of having a fourth dose for everybody are not ATAGI’s view at the moment.
“It is just that category of people who have underlying health conditions and people who have a disability.”
Senator Gallagher said despite the boosters not being made available to the wider public, there were no supply issues for COVID vaccine boosters going forward.
“We would encourage anyone who has not had their booster dose or who may be eligible for this fourth dose to make arrangements to get that dose,” she said.
The incoming health minister will receive a full briefing on COVID next week.
Australian Associated Press