Australians aged over 30 will be eligible for a fourth Covid jab from as early as Thursday.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is set to approve a second booster shot after meeting to discuss the hotly debated issue on Wednesday evening.
Anthony Albanese tipped that Australians would be given the extra dose, despite some experts saying the additional shot is unlikely to stop new Omicron variants.
At the moment only those aged over 65, or those with serious health issues, are able to receive a fourth shot.
But ATAGI are now set to recommend the the second booster jab to anyone over 50.
Anthony Albanese said he expects the fourth Covid jab to be approved for the masses, saying ‘it’s a question of when rather than whether it will happen’
The Prime Minister told radio station 6PR in Perth on Tuesday it was crucial Australians get their third shot because it reduces the disease’s symptoms.
‘I know that the authorities including ATAGI are looking at that (approving a fourth jab),’ he said.
‘I think it’s a question of when rather than whether it will happen. We need to make sure that people continue to keep up their vaccinations.’
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews have also campaigned to widen the eligibility criteria for the fourth booster.
‘We need to broaden it and we need to do it quickly’, Hazzard said at a press conference on Tuesday before going onto say he had advocated for the fourth shot when meeting with state and federal ministers last week.
Mr Andrews said he believed health workers should be made a priority for fourth dose.
‘They were the very first to be part of the Commonwealth vaccination program. Some of their immunity is waning, so getting them fourth jabs as fast as possible is very important to help keep Covid out of the hospital,’ he said.
The campaigning for the fourth dose comes as Australia’s best pandemic advisers warn the winter Omicron wave could be the worst yet.
As it stands people aged 16 and up with chronic cardiac, neurological, kidney, liver and lung disease, who are severely obese or underweight, or with other conditions that leave them immunocompromised are able to access a fourth jab from May 30, alongside those who are over 65 or are Indigenous Australians.
Currently fourth jabs are only available to over 65s and people with conditions, with vaccine advisory groups considering approving the fourth Covid jab for all Aussies
Mr Albanese told radio station 6PR in Perth that it was crucial Australians got their third shot because it had a real impact on mitigating the disease’s symptoms
Writing in The Conversation on Monday, University of South Australia Professor of Epidemiology Adrian Esterman said existing vaccines, however, are ‘unlikely’ to protect against infection.
‘Although current vaccines based on the Wuhan strain will still provide some protection against serious illness and death against BA.4/5, they are unlikely to provide much, if any, protection against infection or symptomatic disease,’ he said.
Professor Esterman said Moderna’s second-generation vaccine, which is currently in trials, would work better against the latest subvariants.
Health Minister Mark Butler said just last month there was no evidence a fourth dose of existing vaccines would actually help.
That’s because existing vaccines don’t work as well at stopping infection from the two subvariants of the Omicron strain – known as BA.4 and BA.5 – that are becoming dominant in Australia.
The strains – identified early this year in South Africa – are more transmissible than the original Omicron strain but have not caused more deaths or severe illness.
‘The benefits of the vaccine for younger people do not warrant the decision that they have a fourth dose made available to them,’ Mr Butler told reporters in Canberra in June.
‘There’s a general acceptance that there’s no evidence right now that the fourth dose is particularly called for for younger people who don’t have compromised immunity,’ he said.
Australians aged over 30 will be eligible for a fourth Covid jab from as early as Thursday
Health Minister Mark Butler (pictured) said just last week there was no evidence a fourth dose would actually help
Vaccine rollout data shows Australians are less willing to get third and fourth jabs now that lockdowns are over and jab mandates have been largely removed.
More than 95 per cent have had at least one dose but 70.5 per cent of Aussies have had a third jab.
The figure is even less for fourth jabs which have been taken up by only 58.7 per cent of Aussies over 65.
Experts are warning of a winter wave as people spend more time indoors in close proximity during cold and wet weather.
There were 26 deaths on Monday in which the deceased had Covid, as the national total death toll passed 10,000 earlier this month.
Hospitalisations have also reached 3,511 across the country, the highest levels since February during the height of the Omicron wave.
Nearly 30,000 infections were reported nationally on Monday alone, with experts warning case numbers will climb even further as winter progresses.