Australians aged 30 and over are eligible for: in an effort to grapple with a new wave of Omicron sub-variants over the winter.
The federal government has taken up the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) that people between the ages of 50 and 64 are “highly recommended” to receive the fourth so-called “winter dose”.
The expanded rollout begins Monday and it is estimated that more than seven million Australians will be able to receive their fourth shot, in line with a staggering increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
This is due to the increased transfer of which have been described in mid-winter as a cause for concern about the country’s strained health system.
But ATAGI has warned that even its recommendation for more Australians to receive their fourth COVID-19 vaccine is “expected to be limited” in its effect on curbing the virus outbreak.
According to experts, this is why and what can be done at an individual and community level to contain the new wave and minimize serious illness and death across the country.
‘Transmission is king’
Nancy Baxter, head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, says it’s critical to understand one thing when it comes to Omicron’s new dominant subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.
“Transmission is king,” she told australiabusinessblog News.
†[The sub-variants] are worse actors in terms of being better able to evade our immune system and they’re more transmissible, and they’re easier to catch even if you’ve had a vaccine or had COVID,” she said.
Professor Baxter said the BA.4 and BA.5 were “successful variants” at averting the immune system, and have remained highly transmissible.
“The way it’s designed itself to evade immunity and to increase its ability to do that as it’s changed has really made it a lot stickier. It’s stuck,” she said.
How did we get here?
Professor Baxter said there is a “triple blow” of reasons that have led to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
Australians entered winter at a time when Omicron sub-variants were being transmitted at a highly contagious rate. All this while fewer public health restrictions have been enforced, and many people’s vaccine efficacy or their immunity to receiving COVID-19 has declined.
“We’re creating an environment for the virus to spread it, we’re less protected, and we have a more contagious subvariant,” she said.
It also comes as the third dose admission rate in Australia has fallen, with only 70.6 percent of people receiving the first booster described by health authorities as crucial for managing hospitalization and serious illness due to COVID-19.
That has been described as “sub-optimal” by professor of immunology at Murdoch University in Perth, Cassandra Berry.
“If you’re not healthy, you can’t run a business or create wealth. If you can’t save lives, there’s no life worth living,” she said.
“We need some sort of commotion and need to be very vigilant now.”
How can we maximize vaccine effectiveness?
ATAGI has made it clear that getting the fourth shot plays a “limited but important role” in managing the pandemic. It has continued to urge Australians to take stricter public health measures in addition to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
This includes the return to wearing face masks, social distancing and regular hand washing and sanitizing, as well as antiviral treatment for those over 50.
“Gone are the days when we did elbow thrusts, but that social restriction is still very important in keeping infected people away from healthy people,” said Professor Berry.
Some critics have called on the government to bring back mask-wearing indoors, but †
“The message is ‘take responsibility, make your own choice’,” he told ABC on Friday.
“We are well into the third year of the pandemic and we need to make sure people feel they can take control of their own circumstances.”
Professor Baxter said she hoped Australians would take the initiative to wear a face mask first, and that politicians would lead by example, rather than re-enforce the mandate of a mask.
“I wish people would look around and say, ‘I have to wear masks to protect myself and my community,’ and we shouldn’t be giving them a mandate because Australians would be doing the right thing,” she said.
“If we need a mask mandate to have our political leaders wear a mask, then I think we need a mask mandate.”
Will we forever need COVID-19 boosters?
As millions of Australians now prepare to roll up their sleeves for their fourth dose, Professor Berry said Australians must face the reality that COVID-19 vaccines are likely to stay with us for the rest of our lives.
“The best shield of protection is to get updated vaccines and I think boosters will be here forever for COVID, just like we have for flu,” she said.
Both Professors Baxter and Berry indicated that the current vaccine being rolled out around the world targets Alpha, one of the first few variants of COVID-19.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Wednesday issued: which is expected to successfully manage these BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
However, if and until the next variant comes, booster vaccines are expected to stay here.
“To ensure that as few people as possible die, as few people as possible in hospital and as few people as possible are long-term disabled because of COVID, we must continue with relatively exceptional measures for the next two years. years,” said Professor Baxter.
Why can’t people age 30 and under get the fourth dose?
For now, ATAGI has not advised people under 30 to get the second booster unless they have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19.
However, Professor Berry said it would be ideal for people in their 20s to get extra protection against catching and subsequently transmitting the virus.
According to government health data, Australians aged 20-29 will be the highest group of people to test positive for COVID-19 in July 2022 due to their increased mobility and interactions with others.
“Even though they are not seen to be hospitalized and die at the same rate as the older, more vulnerable people, they still get infected and can be reinfected with these Omicron variants and spread the virus in the community” , she said.
Meanwhile, those between the ages of 30 and 50 are eligible for their fourth COVID-19 shot, but ATAGI said the benefit for Australians in this age group is “less certain”.