Federal election 2022
The incoming federal government has expanded access to fourth doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to about 1.5 million extra Australians with health conditions including cancers, diabetes, lung and liver disease ahead of winter.
People with chronic cardiac, neurological, kidney, liver and lung disease, those who are severely obese or underweight, or with other conditions that leave them immunocompromised will be able to access a fourth jab from May 30.
Access to fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines is being expanded.Credit:AP
Diabetes requiring medication and all cancers are covered by the new eligibility criteria, which also extends to people with a disability who have significant or complex health needs, or multiple comorbidities that increase their risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.
The change is based on the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which met on Wednesday to discuss the latest international evidence on fourth doses. It follows the United States government’s move to allow everyone aged 50 and over to get a fourth jab.
Katy Gallagher, the health minister in Prime Minister Albanese’s interim cabinet, said the expansion of eligibility “is an important next step in building community protection from COVID and increasing booster rates”.
Healthy people aged 16 to 64 who do not have a risk factor for severe disease – including healthcare workers and pregnant women without other risk factors – “are not recommended to receive a winter booster dose at this time,” she said.
“The primary goal of the Australian COVID-19 vaccine program is to minimise the risk of severe disease, including hospitalisation and death, from COVID-19,” Gallagher said.
She said the government would work medical experts, states and territories and community groups to ensure every Australian “knows the importance of vaccination and how they can take up their opportunity to remain protected”.
Fourth doses are already available to people aged 65 years and above, aged care and disability care residents, severely immunocompromised people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or above.
The additional winter booster dose can be given from 4 months or longer after the person has received their first booster dose, or from 3 months after a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, if infection occurred since the person’s first COVID-19 booster dose.
People who are eligible for the winter dose, but have had a recent infection of COVID-19, should delay their winter booster until 3 months after their infection, Gallagher said.
ATAGI also recommends everyone in Australia over the age of six months should receive an influenza vaccination, which can be given at the same time as COVID-19 vaccines and should not be delayed if someone is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
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