Australians aged 16 and older will soon require a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to be considered “up to date” with their immunisation after the nation’s leading medical advisory body recommended moving away from the term “fully vaccinated”.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) put forward the new guidelines to serve “as the basis for policies for the public health management of the COVID-19 pandemic in a domestic context.”
The Federal Government has accepted the advice, noting it has secured more than 151 million booster doses for delivery over the next 12 months.
“Under the new advice, a person is ‘up to date’ if they have completed all the doses recommended for their age and individual health needs,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said.
“ATAGI recommend that everyone aged 16 years and older receive a booster dose three months after their primary course, to maintain the best protection and an ‘up to date’ status.”
Under the new guidelines, anyone aged 16 and older will also be considered “overdue” for a booster shot six months after receiving their second jab.
In the event more than six months pass, ATAGI says the vaccine can still be “given safely and effectively.”
It also suggested that any state or territory planning to adopt the new definition should allow until the end of March to sufficiently implement the changes.
However, the shift will not apply to international arrivals.
“Appropriate vaccination requirements relating to international border settings are outside the remit of ATAGI and are a matter for other government policies,” ATAGI said.
The Federal Government has mandated booster shots in the aged-care sector, delegating power to states and territories to mandate it in other settings.
Children will continue to be considered ‘up to date’ without a booster, while severely immunocompromised people aged five years and older will require a third primary dose to meet the definition.
National Cabinet noted that the Omicron wave has peaked in most states and territories, as cases have fallen by 20 per cent since peak levels in mid-January.
Hospitalisations have fallen by 63 per cent since then, and ventilated cases have dropped by 54 per cent.
More than 9.5 million booster doses have been administered to 46.3 per cent of Australians.
ATAGI acknowledges that advice may change as the pandemic evolves.
Updated at 11.04am AEDT on 11 February 2022.
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