Fifth Covid vaccine for Australian adults to roll out later this month

<span>Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

A fifth Covid vaccine dose will be made available to Australian adults from later this month.

The health minister, Mark Butler, has announced all adults who have not had a booster or a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the past six months will be eligible for another dose from 20 February, after the government accepted the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi).

Butler said the government had 4m Omicron-specific booster doses available now and that another 10m were expected to arrive this month.

“Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells and I will be writing to aged care providers to encourage them to bring local pharmacists and GPs into their facilities to administer the additional booster doses,” he said in a statement.

Related: Atagi expected to update advice on fifth dose of Covid vaccine within weeks

Atagi particularly recommended that everyone aged 65 years and over, as well as younger adults who have medical comorbidities, disability or complex health needs have a 2023 booster dose, the minister said.

An additional booster will not be provided for under 18s, except when they have health conditions that would put them at risk, given the low incidence of severe illness and high level of hybrid immunity among this group.

The number of reported cases has continued to fall from a peak of 16,000 a week in December, the highest rate recorded since August, to a rolling seven-day average of 2,600 cases.

There was an increase in deaths recorded in aged care centres last month caused by the leap in cases earlier in the summer.

But there has seemingly been dwindling demand for boosters, with Australia discarding almost 20% of its national Covid vaccine supply in September.