COVID boosters a matter of urgency: PM

Australia is expected to follow other parts of the world in expanding eligibility for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to the wider population.

The expectation comes as Pfizer took a step towards rolling out two new vaccines which target the Omicron variant.

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.

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.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) was expected to discuss the benefits of expanding the fourth dose eligibility at its meeting on Wednesday.

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.

But federal Health Minister Mark Butler told Radio 3AW he did not expect to get ATAGI’s official advice on extra booster shots until Friday after the group had worked on the details of their decisions. 

Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard said the new wave of BA4 and BA5 subvariants of the virus, which can evade both natural and vaccine immunity, is 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, so my message is it’s important for you to prepare now,” he said, urging the take-up of boosters.

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. 

On Wednesday, there were 3781 people with COVID-19 in hospitals across the country, the highest level since the height of the Omicron wave in February.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff used a media conference to “strongly recommend” the use of masks in indoor public spaces.


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