From today, all Australians over 50 are advised to take a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine to boost their immunity, said federal health minister Mark Butler in a press conference. In addition to the over-fifties, those aged 30 to 49 would also be eligible for a fourth vaccine, but the minister stressed that age group was considered at “relatively low risk” of severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) released a statement today updating its recommendations for a winter dose of Covid-19 vaccine, in order to help reduce severe disease from the emerging surge of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariant infections.

It’s hoped the expansion of eligibility for the fourth vaccine will also reduce the burden on Australia’s healthcare system in coming months.

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“While rates of hospitalisation, severe disease, and death from Covid-19 are low in [the 30-49] age group,” states ATAGI, “other factors such as time off work and the risk of long Covid may influence an individual’s personal decision to have a winter booster dose. The impact of vaccination on transmission and maintenance of healthcare capacity in this age group is uncertain but likely to be limited.”

If you’re wondering how soon you should get vaccinated, the recommended interval between your third vaccine dose and your fourth dose is now three months. This also applies to those who’ve recently tested positive for Covid-19 – wait three months before your fourth vaccine.

ATAGI’s statement confirms that people previously eligible for a winter booster dose remain at higher risk of severe disease and death from Covid-19 and should receive their fourth dose as soon as possible. This group includes adults aged 65 years or older, residents of aged care or disability care facilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or older, people who are severely immunocompromised (this will be their fifth dose), people aged 16 or older with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe illness, and people aged 16 or older with disability, significant or complex health needs.

To date, 70.6 per cent of Australians have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccines and 59.5 per cent have received their second dose. In addition to vaccination, ATAGI also advises increased use of masks and increasing the use of antiviral treatment in people diagnosed with Covid-19.

At the moment, there’s no planned date for a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine for those under 30.