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A fourth ‘winter dose’ of COVID-19 vaccine has been recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) for four at risk groups.

Adults aged 65 and over, First Nations Australians aged over 50, residents in aged care and disability settings, along with immunocompromised people over the age of 16 will be eligible, as reported by 9News Federal Political Reporter Chris O’Keefe.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt confirmed “winter doses” will commence from April 4; the same day the flu vaccine program will begin.

Mr Hunt said the fourth vaccine is recommended four to six months after the last booster.

Doses will be administered at pharmacies, GPs as well as government-run vaccine hubs.

Mr Hunt said at this stage the booster dose is only recommended for those four groups.

“It is only recommended for those groups at this point in time,” Mr Hunt said, explaining ATAGI looked at international evidence from countries such as Israel to make their determination.

“There is always room for review.

“(But) at this stage we’re not predicting this is likely to change.”

O’Keefe earlier said ATAGI is concerned about rising cases and waning immunity from vaccine booster shots.

“As we get into winter that fourth dose might be critical to the population to keep them out of hospital,” O’Keefe told Today.

“The federal government is calling it the winter dose and it will be given out to everybody over the age of 65, four months after their last booster shot.”

It comes as COVID-19 cases rise around the country, driven by the spread of the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 11: A sign directing people to the COVID-19 screening area is posted outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital on March 11, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Seven coronavirus screening clinics are now open in Victoria to help avoid the further spread of COVID-19. 18 people in Victoria have now been diagnosed with the virus, with the Australian total of confirmed cases now at 100.(Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images)
COVID-19 cases are increasing around the country as the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant spreads. (Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images) (Getty)

Infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy welcomes the news, saying it’s critical to get booster doses when variants emerge.

“It becomes more important if the disease starts returning, especially if a variant happens,” he said.

“For the moment the immunosuppressed and the vulnerable are becoming into focus for the fourth dose.”

There are four coronavirus vaccines currently approved for use in Australia; AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax.

Coles Eastgardens

How Australia faced the emergence of the Omicron variant

Source: 9News

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