Older West Australians and those at risk of severe disease from COVID will begin rolling up their sleeves to get their “winter booster” from Monday.
The Federal Government’s immunization advisory group, ATAGI, recommends these people get their second booster shot four months after they received their first.
The groups include anyone aged 65 and over, residents of aged care or disability care facilities, Aboriginal people 50 and older, and over 16s with severe immunosuppression.
The rollout coincides with the influenza vaccination program, meaning older West Australians can get the flu shot and the extra COVID vaccine dose at the same time.
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy told a parliamentary hearing on Friday the fourth jab would help protect at-risk Australians ahead of a predicted surge in infections this winter.
ATAGI does not currently recommend the fourth dose for healthy under 65s. However, people can seek further advice from their GP.
The winter booster dose can be given four months after a person received their third dose or four months after a COVID infection, if that occurred since their last booster.
For the eligible, the fourth dose can be accessed from Monday at GPs, pharmacies and State-run clinics. Bookings can be made via the Roll Up for WA website from mid-April.
Pfizer or Moderna are the preferred vaccines, but AstraZeneca can be used under certain circumstances and Novavax can be administered if no other COVID vaccine is considered suitable for that person.
“This is an important recommendation that will further protect at-risk Western Australians from severe illness and reduce hospitalizations related to COVID over winter,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
“I encourage all people within these groups to take advantage when they become eligible and again roll up for WA to help protect themselves and their community from COVID.”
The State’s world-leading third dose rate — currently 75.5 per cent of over 16s — has been credited by the State Government as the reason for the lower than expected hospitalization rate.
WA Health does distinguish between whether a patient died “with COVID” or “from COVID”.
Last month, Royal Perth Hospital clinical services director Professor Grant Waterer told a workforce webinar that vaccine boosters would probably be required for the next seven to 10 years.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt later confirmed older Australians may get a new COVID vaccine booster every year and it could be combined with the flu jab.
WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the winter booster would be crucial as the State headed towards what was typically the busiest time of the year for the health system.
“If you’re eligible for a winter booster, please take the opportunity to get vaccinated through your GP, pharmacy or State-run clinics,” Ms Sanderson said.
“It is also important for high-risk people to get a flu jab, which the ATAGI has confirmed can be given at the same time as the winter booster dose.”
Vaccine Commander Gary Dreibergs said he was confident West Australians would take-up the opportunity and continue to keep WA “as the envy of the world in terms of COVID-19 vaccination rates”.