ATAGI, the advisory group on immunisation has recently announced its recommendations about the 5th dose.
- ATAGI recommendsa 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for adults in the following groups, if their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection (whichever is the most recent) was 6 months ago or longer, and regardless of the number of prior doses received:
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Adults aged 18-64 years who have medical comorbidities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs.
- ATAGI advises the following groups should consider a 2023 booster dose if their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection (whichever is the most recent) was 6 months ago or longer, and regardless of the number of prior doses received, based on an individual risk benefit assessment with their immunisation provider.
- All Adults aged 18-64 years without risk factors for severe COVID-19
- Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years who have medical comorbidities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs.
- ATAGI advises that a booster dose is not recommended at this time for children and adolescents aged under the age of 18 who do not have any risk factors for severe COVID-19.
This can occur from 20 February 2023 and preferably of an Omicron bivalent vaccine.
The background to this caveat is the growing evidence that hybrid immunity from natural infection and immunisation is quite long lasting against hospitalisation and severe disease and that a better immune response is obtained with a six-month gap.
The COVID-19 vaccine can be co-administered with influenza and other vaccines. Administration of a 2023 COVID-19 booster dose should aim to occur prior to June 2023 and at a time of 6 months or greater following the most recent COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection.
However, the evidence is that many Australians have become COVID complacent. Booster dose rates remain low and Long COVID is on the rise. Only 72.4 per cent of eligible Australians have had three vaccine doses and just 44.6 per cent have had four doses. Older, vulnerable Australians are also under-immunised.
Health experts are calling for a rethink of Australia’s COVID-19 approach after a new study showed one in 10 people will end up with Long COVID.
The study was published in Natures Reviews Microbiology and estimates that at least 65 million individuals worldwide have Long COVID, which is when symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks after the initial infection.
Experts warn that each time a person is reinfected with the virus they have the same likelihood of catching Long COVID.
More than 200 symptoms have been identified with impacts on multiple organ systems.
Long COVID is also having a significant impact on the economy.
Combined COVID-19 and flu vaccine
Pharmaceutical company Novavax has begun the Phase 2 trial of a combined COVID-19 and flu vaccine that would enable people to get one shot every year to protect them from both viruses. According to Executive Vice President, John Trizzino the earliest Novavax expects to get combined doses in arms by the spring of 2025.
Several pharmaceutical companies are in the process of creating combination COVID-19 and flu vaccines. To date, Novavax’s combined vaccine candidate has progressed the furthest.