Announcement on COVID-19 boosters imminent

The country’s vaccine advisory group has finalised its advice on whether to formally approve COVID-19 booster shots.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation delivered its final advice to the federal government late on Wednesday.

ATAGI member Professor Allen Cheng said an announcement on the booster approval was imminent.

“The government is considering the parameters of the ATAGI advice, but an announcement will be soon,” Professor Cheng told ABC Radio on Thursday.

It comes following the Therapeutic Goods Administration granting provisional approval for the Pfizer booster, which would be given six months after the initial course of the vaccine.

The decision on whether to roll out the booster shots across the country is dependant on ATAGI advice.

The top-up Pfizer shot could be made available to all Australians over 18 in a matter of weeks, regardless of what vaccine they were given previously.

Severely immunocompromised Australians have already been eligible for a third dose.

Prof Cheng said while various jurisdictions have required COVID-19 vaccines in some settings, mandates for boosters would be a matter for states and territories to administer.

“Boosters are the icing on the cake and the most important thing is to get two doses into people to make sure they’re protected,” he said.

Meanwhile, doctors say a new funding deal is needed to ensure the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine booster program is rolled out properly.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the government would need to review arrangements for GPs involved in the top-up shot program.

“The government will need to ensure general practice is properly funded to reach out to patients using recall systems and assess patients as well as administer booster shots,” he said.

The booster decision comes after the federal government’s global ‘do not travel’ advice was finally removed after Australia closed its borders against COVID-19 last year.

The update to the SmartTraveller website comes ahead of the progressive lifting of international travel restrictions on November 1.

The government is also reinstating country-specific travel advice levels for 177 destinations so Australians looking to go overseas can understand the risks and access travel insurance more readily.

Australia is set to reach an 80 per cent double vaccination rate in a matter of days, ahead of the border reopening on November 1.

“On Monday, Australia will be taking off again as international travel restrictions are lifted,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Wednesday.

While fully vaccinated Australians will be able to depart without an exemption, all travellers need to be aware COVID-19 remains an ongoing global health risk, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said travel arrangements with New Zealand and Singapore were being finalised.

“We are looking to open up further and further, safely and make sure we can get international travel back to normal as soon as we possibly can,” he told the Seven Network.


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