Millions of Australians are told to get a fourth Covid shot NOW as health minister confirms huge change to vaccination program – while others are now allowed if they feel like it
- Calls for fourth Covid vaccination mounting as cases and hospitalisations climb
- New BA4 and BA5 subvariants ripping through Australian population
- Health experts say new booster shots are required immediately
The fourth Covid jab has been approved for all Australians aged over 30 as the nation’s health experts rush to ease the strain on overcrowded hospitals.
The new wave of BA4 and BA5 subvariants are ripping through Australia due to high transmissibility, with early data suggesting the strains have evolved to evade the existing vaccines and acquired immunity.
On Thursday, there were 3,921 people with COVID-19 in hospitals across the country, still below the 5,000-plus around the Australia Day peak of Omicron, but an increase of 24 per cent since mid-May.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) on Thursday announced Australians over the age of 50 should receive their fourth jab, with the 50-64 age group ‘specifically recommended’ from Monday July 11.
Aussies aged between 30 and 49 will also eligible for the fourth jab if they ‘choose’.
There were 3,781 people in hospital with Covid on Wednesday – the highest Australia has seen since the height Omicron wave in February
Symptoms of new BA4 and BA5 subvariants
Loss of taste
Loss of smell
Muscle aches and pains
Red or irritated eyes
Discolouration of fingers or toes
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the move came as a response to surging numbers across the country.
The decision means an extra 7.4million Australians will be able to receive their fourth shot.
‘Case numbers are rising, hospitalisations are up by several hundred just in the fortnight, and most state governments and the federal government are projecting that that’s going to continue for some time yet,’ he said in Adelaide.
‘We are absolutely committed to doing whatever we can as a government to get through this winter and get through this third Omicron wave that’s headed our way.’
The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced on Wednesday it had granted two provisional determinations to Pfizer Australia for its vaccines Comirnaty Omicron and Comirnaty Bivalent.
It means Pfizer is now able to apply to the TGA for provisional registration of the two vaccines and seek authorisation to bring them to market.
However, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday night that ATAGI will recommend fourth doses for anyone over the age of 50, and allow anyone over the age of 30 to have another booster shot if they wish to have one.
This means more Aussies will be able to protect themselves against the new BA4 and BA5 subvariants.
The new wave of BA4 and BA5 subvariants are ripping through Australia due to high transmissibility, with early data suggesting the strands are better at avoiding immunity
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr John Gerrard said the new forms of the virus are not expected to peak until late July or early August.
‘It’s very likely that either you or someone you know close to you will be infected, it will be very common. My message is it’s important for you to prepare now,’ he said, urging the take-up of boosters.
As the nation grapples with rising case numbers, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says immunisation experts will look at available evidence before making a recommendation on a broader fourth dose rollout.
‘The pandemic isn’t over, so my view is that (Australia) will inevitably follow what has occurred in other parts of the world and roll out a further booster shot,’ he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
‘I’d encourage people who haven’t had their booster shots to go out there if they’re eligible and do it as a matter of urgency.’
A fourth dose is currently available for Australians aged 65 and older and vulnerable people.
Victoria has extended its pandemic declaration by three months until at least October 12.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard also warned that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated is ‘crazy’ as the state braces for a third wave to peak.