Health minister Mark Butler has announced that the federal government has accepted advice on expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines with another booster dose.
The minister said the change that will take effect from 20 February is based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that all adults who have not had a COVID-19 booster or a confirmed case in the past six months can now get another booster.
ATAGI has particularly recommended that everyone at risk of severe illness have a 2023 booster dose. This group includes everyone aged 65 and over as well as younger adults who have medical comorbidities, disabilities or complex health needs.
ATAGI has advised that otherwise healthy children and teenagers do not need a booster at this time, given the low incidence of severe illness and high level of hybrid immunity amongst this cohort.
An additional booster will not be provided for people aged under 18, except where those aged 5 to 17 have health conditions that would put them at risk of severe illness.
The recommendation for a booster is for people whose most recent COVID-19 vaccine or infection was six months or more ago, irrespective of how many prior doses that person has received.
"For this booster dose, all available COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to provide a benefit. However, Omicron-specific mRNA booster vaccines are preferred over other vaccines," said the minister in a statement.
"The Government has 4 million Omicron-specific booster doses available right now and another 10 million arriving in February."
“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," said Mr Butler.
“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.
“The Government has secured millions of doses of Omicron-specific boosters, with millions more arriving this month, in the largest one-month arrival since late 2021.
“Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells and I will be writing to aged care providers to encourage them to bring local pharmacists and GPs into their facilities to administer the additional booster doses.”