Canberra, Dec 24 (MNN) Interval between vaccination and booster dose in Australia has been brought down to four months, with Australians who have completed their primary course of COVID-19 vaccination no less than four months ago can now receive booster dose from January 4, 2022, the federal government said on Friday.
In making these changes to further bring forward the booster eligibility, the Australian government acted on the expert medical advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt told the media here.
“The move to reduce the interval between a person’s primary course of vaccination and their booster dose from five months to four months will see approximately 7.5 million Australians eligible for their booster dose as of January 4,” the government said.
Australian government’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly was also present at the press meet.
The government will also further bring forward, as of January 31, the interval for eligibility to three months, which will mean that more than 16 million people will be eligible for their booster at this time.
This decision is based on the expert medical advice from ATAGI and operational planning from the National COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce.
Australia was one of the first countries in the world to commence a whole of population COVID-19 booster program, and so far approximately two million Australians have received a booster dose over recent weeks.
ATAGI made its recommendation to reduce the interval after closely monitoring the epidemiology and characteristics of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant.
It also considered the emerging data on the need, potential benefits, and optimal timing of a vaccine booster dose to prevent COVID-19 due to this variant.
Advice to the government from ATAGI indicates that further bringing forward booster doses is likely to increase protection against infection with the Omicron variant based on international and Australian data observed over recent weeks.
Whilst early data suggests the risk of hospitalisation, ICU admission and death due to the Omicron variant is far less than Delta or other variants, bringing forward boosters doses and increased public health and social measures such as mask wearing indoors, social distancing where appropriate and ongoing hand hygiene will have an important effect on slowing the spread and impact of Omicron.
As was the case with rolling out doses for people’s primary course of vaccination, these changes continue to allow for a staged approach to the booster rollout going forward, with a clear focus on ensuring our most vulnerable cohorts continue to be prioritised.
Hunt said that Australia has more than enough supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to roll out booster doses to the newly eligible cohort from January 4 – through more than 10,000 vaccination sites including GPs, community pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and state and territory clinics.
There are currently over 20 million doses in Australia of which over five million have already been placed with States and Primary Care teams on the basis of their forward orders.
ATAGI has maintained its advice that booster doses only be given to people aged 18 years and over.
Immunocompromised people who have received three primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to receive a booster dose in line with the timing for the general population.
ATAGI has also highlighted the importance of boosters for pregnant women.
Ninety-one per cent of Australians aged 16 and over have completed their primary course of vaccination. And more than 72 per cent of adolescents aged 12 to 15 have done so.
Arrangements are in place to start rolling out vaccines to children aged five to 11 years from January 10, 2022 with specialised children’s doses arriving in Australia over recent days and now undergoing batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The Australian government has secured over 151 million booster doses for delivery over the coming year and is well placed to continue to achieve world leading vaccination rates against COVID-19.