Canberra, Jul 7 (IANS): The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) on Thursday announced it has recommended a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose for people aged 50 and above, while those aged 30-49 can also choose to have it.
Previously only the over-65s, those with a disability, aged care residents and immunocompromised people were eligible for a second booster shot, reports Xinhua news agency.
Health Minister Mark Butler said 7.4 million more Australians would now be able to receive the fourth dose, offering extra protection ahead of a projected winter surge in the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants.
"This will help provide additional protection from severe disease against the emerging surge of Omicron sub-variant infections and reduce the burden on Australian hospitals and the health care system in coming months," he said in a statement.
"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."
ATAGI noted that the number of people ill with Covid-19 has increased in recent months.
It said a fourth dose alone would not be enough to prevent the spread of the virus, recommending measures such as mask-wearing.
"ATAGI advises that other public health and social measures, in addition to vaccination, will have the greatest impact against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 surge in infections," it said.
"This includes increased use of masks and increasing the use of antiviral treatment in people diagnosed with Covid-19, including in people aged 50 years and above."
Australia on Thursday reported more than 40,000 new Covid-19 cases and 60 deaths.
The nationwide caseload currently stands at 8,327,916, with 10,131 deaths, and approximately 282,003 active cases.