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Australians Aged 30 and Older Now Eligible for Fourth COVID Booster Dose

Australians aged 30 years and older are now eligible for a fourth COVID booster dose, following updated recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Under the new national guidelines, a further 7.4 million people will be able to receive a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose from as early as Monday 11 July. The updated vaccination schedule comes in response to growing concerns of a third coronavirus wave, following a rise in cases across the country.

Fourth Covid Booster Key Facts

Who is eligible:

  • People aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose
  • People aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot

When can they book boosters: Starting from Monday 11 July, 2022
Where: At all local COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics (Click here for more)
Recommended interval: Three months since third dose

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Image: Medakit LTD

What are the Vaccination Guidelines?

Announced on Thursday 7 July, ATAGI’s updated recommendations are designed to provide additional protection from the spread of COVID-19. The medical organisation outlined an ’emerging surge’ of Omicron subvariant infections was the major catalyst behind the introduction of the fourth vaccine dose. Under the terms of the new recommendations, several groups of Australians are now eligible. Specifically, ATAGI recommended that:

  • People aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose
  • People aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot

Importantly, 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. The organisation did reiterate, however, that people who had already been eligible for the fourth dose, including those aged 65 years and over, remain at higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.

“As at 7 July 2022, 60 per cent of people aged 65 years and over have had their fourth dose. People who haven’t already received it are strongly encouraged to have it as soon as possible,” ATAGI wrote in a statement.

How Long Should I Wait in Between Doses?

In terms of waiting times between doses, ATAGI recommended an interval of three months. The updated schedule was reduced from the previous four-month recommendation in order to provide earlier protection. This is especially poignant for those in eligible at-risk population groups, with Minister for Health and Aged Care, The Hon Mark Butler MP noting that a rapidly rising number of cases should be cause for greater vigilance.

“We are in the early stages of a third Omicron wave and our Government is absolutely committed to making sure as many people as possible are protected with the vaccine,” Butler 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. If you are aged 30 to 49 and you want that extra protection, you can choose to get a fourth dose.”

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Image: CDC

Why We Need a Fourth Shot

Australians will remember the previous government and its state-based constituents were strong in their advocacy for three shots, so it makes sense that the public may be sceptical of why they need a fourth dose. The answer goes back to the original strategy, which in Australia is essentially ‘vaccine-only’. While that may served the nation well in the early stages, a supposedly ‘mild’ Omicron variant has seen driven total death figures to rise above 10,000 here in Australia.

According to Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute, a fourth dose is a key strategy in the government’s plan to reduce transmission.

“A fourth dose becomes even more crucial when we have no other plan – no mask mandates, no mandated indoor air quality standards nor universal, affordable access to antivirals. It will save lives and reduce the load on our health system,” Professor Raina MacIntyre wrote. “The BA.5 Omicron subvariant is now taking over, and has even more “escape” from current vaccines. But a fourth dose will help.”

How to Book Fourth COVID Dose

If you are in the eligible category and want to book a fourth COVID shot, you have a number of options. In addition to booking through your regular doctor’s surgery, the government has provided two avenues to reduce wait times and increase uptake.

Through Your GP

Fourth COVID booster doses will begin arriving in local GP locations from 11 July, meaning those eligible to receive the vaccination will be able to book immediately. While this option is the most straightforward, industry bodies have warned that GP shortages may lead to longer wait times.

Dr Bruce Willett from the Royal Australian College of GPs told the ABC that general practitioners are already in hot demand and the introduction of a fourth dose could lead to extended wait times.

“Normally, influenza peaks as a late winter phenomenon. On top of that, we’re seeing record numbers of COVID and we’re seeing a whole raft of other viruses like RSV,” Dr Willett said. “We are seeing a perfect storm of a whole range of issues coming together. All of those things are coming together to cause really an acute shortage for now.”

COVID-19 Clinic Finder

If you’re unsure where your closest COVID vaccination clinic is, the government’s newly introduced COVID-19 Clinic Finder is a valuable resource. The national database allows you to locate your closest clinic, or sort through results voa the ‘earliest available’. To make a booking:

  1. Visit the COVID-19 Clinic Finder
  2. Enter your postcode
  3. Filter by ‘nearest’ or ‘earliest available’
  4. Click through to make a booking

Easy Vaccine Access (EVA)

Finally, the government’s Easy Vaccine Access tool is designed for those who may require assistance in making a booking for their fourth dose. The call-back service is available every day and operates between 7am and 10pm (AEST). Staffed by trained operators from the National Coronavirus Helpline, the service will step you through the process of making a booking and outline the closest clinics to your local area. To use the Easy Vaccine Access service:

  1. Send an SMS with ‘Hey EVA’ to 0481 611 382 between 7 am to 10 pm (AEST)
  2. You will receive a reply asking for your:
    • Name
    • Preferred language
    • Preferred date and time
    • Best number for a callback.
  3. A trained operator will call you back and step you through the process
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Image: Mufid Majnun

COVID Australia: By the Numbers

For Australia, the move to introduce a fourth COVID dose comes at a pivotal time. The highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 variants have driven a new wave of infections and hospitalisations across the country, and the numbers are expected to rise.

According to the latest data released by the Australian Government Department of Health, there are a total of 3,977 active cases currently admitted to hospitals around the country, 1,901 of those in New South Wales alone. Similarly, case numbers have surged in recent weeks, with 298,912 active cases currently reported and acknowledged. While the age group most impacted by infection is the 20-29-year-old range, the vast majority of deaths have occurred in the 80-89-year-old category.

“My other message is that oral antiviral treatments can be life-saving for older people or people with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” Butler said. “It is vital a person starts the five-day oral treatment course as soon as possible after symptoms first appear. If you are at higher risk of severe illness, plan ahead. Speak to your doctor now about oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19.”

General FAQs

How long do I need to wait to get my fourth COVID booster dose?

According to recommendations from The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), you must wait three months from you third dose before you can receive a fourth.

How do I find my closest vaccine booster clinic?

To find your closest vaccination clinic, visit the government's COVID-19 Clinic Finder website. Simply enter your details and it will show you the clinic nearest to you.