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Fourth COVID jab decision looms

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The approval of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for millions of Australians appears imminent as the federal government warns the nation is in the early stages of a fresh wave of the potentially fatal virus.

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The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) discussed the benefits of expanding the fourth dose eligibility at a meeting on Wednesday.

But Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said he doesn’t expect to get ATAGI’s official advice on the extra shot until Friday.

Butler also warned Australia is in the early stages of a fresh wave of COVID-19.

“Case numbers are rising, hospitalisations are up by several hundred just in the fortnight, and most state governments and the federal government are projecting that that’s going to continue for some time yet,” he said in Adelaide.

“We are absolutely committed to doing whatever we can as a government to get through this winter and get through this third Omicron wave that’s headed our way.”

Currently a fourth vaccination – or second booster – is only available to those over 65, people in aged or disability care and those who are immunocompromised.

The Australian newspaper reported last night that ATAGI will recommend fourth doses for anyone over the age of 50, and allow anyone over the age of 30 to have another booster shot if they wish to have one.

As the nation grapples with rising case numbers, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said immunisation experts would look at available evidence before making a recommendation on a broader fourth dose rollout.

“The pandemic isn’t over, so my view is that (Australia) will inevitably follow what has occurred in other parts of the world and roll out a further booster shot,” he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“I’d encourage people who haven’t had their booster shots to go out there if they’re eligible and do it as a matter of urgency.”

South Australia yesterday recorded 4072 new daily COVID-19 infections yesterday, up from 3141 on Tuesday. There are also 267 people in SA hospitals with the virus.

Local authorities are considering the reintroduction of mask mandates to help combat the rise in cases.

Nationally, there were more than 40,000 new cases and 21 deaths reported yesterday.

 – AAP

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