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ATAGI recommends COVID-19 boosters for Australians aged 18 and over, program to begin in November

COVID-19 vaccines boosters for all Australian adults have been given the green light, and will be rolled out in less than two weeks.

The national booster rollout cleared its final hurdle on Thursday, as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended third doses for all Australians aged 18 and over.

Aged care and health care workers will be prioritised in the initial stages, which will commence with Pfizer. But any adult fully-immunised at least six months ago will be eligible, regardless of which vaccine they had received.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the program will begin on November 8, saying it would form an "important part" of Australia's post-reopening plans.

"There is enough vaccine right now, here in Australia, to ensure that everybody who wants both single and double vaccinations can have [them]," he told reporters on Thursday.

COVID-19 boosters for adult Australians have been given the green light. Picture: Anna Warr

COVID-19 boosters for adult Australians have been given the green light. Picture: Anna Warr

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Health Minister Greg Hunt said individual GPs could administer boosters from Thursday, ten days before the national rollout began. Extra Pfizer doses will also be sent to pharmacies across the country, he said.

"It will be up to individual pharmacies whether they take that up," he said.

Australia's reopening plans has been tethered to full-vaccination targets set at 70 and 80 per cent of the 16-and-over population.

Paul Kelly says boosters are a 'extra bonus'. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Paul Kelly says boosters are a 'extra bonus'. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

But with full-vaccination classified as having received two doses, chief medical officer Paul Kelly said there would be no national target for boosters.

"After [two doses] is an extra bonus," he said.

"It definitely gives extra protection against severe disease particularly for older Australians and those that are in that vulnerable group."

Immuncompromised Australians have been receiving boosters since mid-October. But in a statement on Thursday, ATAGI recommended Pfizer be offered to the broader adult population.

AstraZeneca could also be used as a booster though was "not preferred", and a decision on Moderna will be made "in due course", it said.

Mr Hunt revealed he held talks with Novavax on Thursday, and expected the company to submit its own application "in the coming weeks".

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ATAGI said boosters would ward off waning immunity from initial doses and help neuter the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

"Evidence on the benefits and risks of booster doses is still limited, but supports the benefit and safety of booster vaccination, particularly in high-risk groups," it said.

ATAGI recommended vulnerable Australians - including those with underlying medical conditions, those aged over 50, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians - be be given highest priority.

But it warned there was insufficient data to justify boosters for people aged under 18.

"In this age group, severe COVID-19 is uncommon, and the primary course of COVID-19 vaccines generates a strong immune response, so the benefit from additional doses of vaccine is likely to be small," its statement read.

It came after Australia edged past 75 per cent full-vaccination among its 16-and-over population. More than 87 per cent have received a first dose.

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This story Vaccine boosters clear final hurdle first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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