More Australians are now eligible to receive a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as cases of the omicron sub-variant strains surge across the nation.
All adults between 50 and 64 have been encouraged to get a ‘winter booster’ (fourth dose) of the jab.
People aged between 30-49 are eligible for the fourth booster as well, however, the benefit for people in this age group is less certain.
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The expansion of the booster program has been recommended by Australia’s Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and confirmed by the Health Minister today.
Authorities are also urging anyone not yet up to date with their booster to do so now, saying two doses of vaccine is “simply not enough to give you protection” against the current BA4 and BA5 sub-variant.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler says these strains are “even more infectious” than the sub-variants we experienced over the summer period, which has put a massive stress on our health system.
“States across the country are reporting increased numbers of cases and increased numbers of people requiring admission to hospital,” Mr Butler says.
“Because of COVID, there are now almost 4000 hospital beds across the country filled by patients with COVID.”
The number of people in ICU is also up 40% in the past week alone.
Health authorities say we’ve not yet hit the peak of this omicron wave, urging anyone who has not already received their third booster to do so immediately.
“There was a terrific take-up of the first two doses of vaccine in Australia, but what we know about the Omicron variants is that two doses of vaccine is simply not enough to give you protection,” Mr Butler says.
“We’re only just at the early stages, so being up to date with your vaccines is crucial to protecting you against the risk of severe disease and particularly the risk of hospitalization or worse.”
The Health Minister said there were still more than 5 million people in Australia for whom it has been more than six months since their second dose, but had not yet had their third booster.
The interval recommended between a recent SARS-CoV-2 infection or the first booster dose and a winter booster dose is now 3 months.
Australians are also being warned to not be complacent, saying that even if you contracted COVID earlier this year it does not mean you’re not at risk of getting COVID again.
Up until today, the fourth dose has only been available to Australians over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians over the age of 50 and a range of high-risk younger groups.
The fourth dose will be available to those eligible from Monday 11 July.