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Fourth Covid vaccine urgently considered as cases rise

Australia’s vaccine regulator is expected to meet on Tuesday to urgently discuss introducing a fourth dose of Covid vaccine more widely in the community.

Increasing case numbers and immune-resistant subvariants have health officials expecting another serious surge of the disease as winter continues.

The Australia Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) will make a call on whether to roll out the fourth dose for everybody, or wait until a potentially better option comes along.

More targeted vaccines are being developed but may take many months to become available.

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Camera IconAustralia’s vaccine regulator must decide whether to introduce a fourth Covid vaccine for those under 65. NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett Credit: News Corp Australia

The country surpassed 10,000 deaths from the virus last week with around 30,000 new cases being recorded every day.

Omicron subvariants have displayed resistance to immunity both from vaccines and previously having had the virus.

Some health experts are already calling for a fourth dose to be approved for Australians under the age of 65.

Currently only those older than 65, Indigenous Australians and anyone considered to be more vulnerable such as those with other diseases are eligible.

Infectious diseases physician Paul Griffin said, particularly with the new subvariants, he would recommend increasing the eligibility of a fourth dose.

“I think particularly as we go through what looks to be a very significant wave of transmission, increasing access to that fourth dose would make sense,” he said.

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Camera IconMore effective vaccines are being developed but may take months before they are available. NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett Credit: News Corp Australia

Federal health minister Mark Butler told journalists over the weekend the health advice was clear in telling people to get booster shots, however you did not elaborate on whether the program would be expanded.

“It is pretty clear that the cases are going to rise in the next couple of months,” he said.

“It is putting pressure on hospitals with more than 3,000 people in hospital today with COVID. We are still seeing around 300 or more deaths every week with COVID. We are not through this virus yet.”

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