ATAGI approves fifth COVID shot for adults

All adult Australians who have not had a COVID-19 vaccination or infection within the past six months will be able to get an extra booster shot from February 20.

The federal government announced on Tuesday night it had accepted updated advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation that an additional shot be provided regardless of how many vaccine doses they have had.

ATAGI recommended the use of Omicron-specific mRNA booster vaccines but said all available vaccines would provide a benefit.

The fifth shot was previously only available to severely immunocompromised adults amid the latest figures that less than half of the eligible Australian population (44 per cent of the adult population over 30) had received a fourth booster dose.

Almost three-quarters (72.4 per cent) of the eligible population aged over 16 have had three shots.

ATAGI recommends that everyone aged 65 and over, and younger adults who have medical co-morbidities, disability or complex health needs, should receive another jab.

The announcement effectively permits Australians aged 18 to 29 to receive a fourth dose.

Children with a health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness will also be eligible.

But low incidences of severe illness and high levels of hybrid immunity mean other children and teens are not eligible.

Health Minister Mark Butler had said in November that ATAGI had considered international evidence, vaccination data and case numbers before deciding not to recommend a fifth dose ‘‘at this point in time’’.

But Mr Butler said the government had four million Omicron-specific booster doses available now, with another 10 million expected to arrive this month.

“From February 20, all adults who haven’t had a booster or an infection in the past six months can go out and get a booster shot, to give them additional protection against severe illness from COVID,” he said.

“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.”

ATAGI will continue to monitor infection rates, variants and vaccine effectiveness in determining if further boosters will be recommended.

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.

Aged-care providers will be encouraged to bring local GPs and pharmacists into their facilities to deliver the booster doses.

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