Vulnerable and older Australians will soon be able to get a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended a second booster be administered for Australians over 65, Indigenous Australians over 50, those in disability care and those who are immunocompromised over the age of 16.
The doses will be rolled out to those groups from April 4 at pharmacies, GPs and vaccine clinics.
The ATAGI advice recommends the second booster be given to those groups between four and six months after the first booster.
ATAGI said the fourth dose could also be administered four months after a COVID-19 infection, if the infection happened after a person received their first booster.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be recommended for the booster doses, but non-mRNA vaccines such as AstraZeneca and Novavax will also be recommended for a fourth shot, should people prefer those options.
The advice was given ahead of a winter that is expected to bring a spike in COVID-19 cases alongside a rise in flu infections.
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was not likely the fourth dose would be expanded soon to include all of the eligible population.
"There's always continuous review, but at this stage, we're not predicting that that's likely to change," he told reporters on the Gold Coast on Friday.
ATAGI said there was insufficient evidence of benefits for an additional dose for broader sections of the population.
"Prevention of severe illness from COVID-19 remains the primary goal of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program," it said in a statement.
"These recommendations for an additional booster dose focus on protecting the most vulnerable groups against severe disease and reducing the potential burden on the healthcare system over the coming months."
Mr Hunt said the limiting of the fourth dose to certain groups was not due to supply issues.
"We have sufficient vaccines to dose all Australians not just four times but five times," he said.
"We are protecting the vulnerable, we are reducing harm."
Mr Hunt also announced the government's biosecurity emergency determination would not be renewed after April 17, when the determination expires.
The move would mean there would be no need for pre-flight testing for arrivals into Australia.
The health minister will also lose certain plenary powers that have been in place for more than two years.
However, arrivals to Australia will still need to be vaccinated and wear masks on flights.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the timing was right to ease the emergency power provisions.
"We can't keep an emergency in place just in case, that's a not a thing we can do," he said.
"For the moment, this is the time to move on and to keep those measures in relation to vaccination."
Mr Hunt said he was pleased the emergency declaration was being eased.
"I'm very happy to do that, that's about normalising Australia," he said.
The health minister has spoken with Qantas and Virgin about changes to pre-flight testing requirements.
Mr Hunt announced the flu vaccine program would also be rolled out on April 4.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA FROM ACROSS AUSTRALIA:
NSW: 23,702 cases, seven deaths, 1182 in hospital including 43 in ICU
Victoria: 9244 cases, nine deaths, 253 in hospital including 19 in ICU
Tasmania: 1786 cases, no deaths, 24 in hospital
ACT: 1122 cases, one death, 42 in hospital
Queensland: 9730 cases, three deaths, 265 people in hospital including 14 in ICU.
NT: 335 new cases, 20 in hospital
WA: 8133 new cases, two deaths (both historical), 209 people in hospital including 10 in ICU
SA: 4549 new cases, four deaths, 157 people in hospital including six in ICU.
Australian Associated Press
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