26 September 2023

More shots to beat Omicron’s third wave

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As the country braces to come face to face against the third wave of the COVID danger Omicron, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended as many people as possible line up for winter doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Issuing its recommendation, the Advisory Group said the updated advice would help reduce severe disease from the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariant infections, and scale down the burden on Australia’s hospitals and healthcare system in the coming months.

Supporting the recommendations, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler said ATAGI specifically recommended that people aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose, while people aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot.

“ATAGI also recommended the interval between vaccine doses, or prior infection (whichever comes later), be reduced from four months to three months to provide earlier additional protection,” Mr Butler said.

“ATAGI did not support making the fourth dose available to healthy adults under the age of 30 years as it was not clear whether the benefits outweighed the risks in this population group.”

He said the surge in cases of BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants was expected to worsen in coming months.

“We are in the early stages of a third Omicron wave,” the Minister said.

“My message to everyone living in Australia aged 50 and over is to make sure you have the greatest protection against COVID-19 by having a fourth dose as soon as possible,” he said.

“If you are aged 30 to 49 and you want that extra protection, you can choose to get a fourth dose.”

Meanwhile the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that people who test positive to COVID-19 more than 28 days after ending isolation due to previous infection should be reported and managed as new cases.

“BA.4 and BA.5 are associated with increased immune escape and we are likely to see rates of reinfection rise among those who have previously been infected with an earlier COVID-19 variant and those who are up to date with their vaccinations,” AHPPC said in a statement.

“Given reinfections may occur as early as 28 days after recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection, the AHPPC advises that the reinfection period be reduced from 12 weeks to 28 days.”

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