A recommendation for a fourth COVID-19 booster has come into effect for some who now have the option to get an additional layer of protection ahead of winter.
Following direction from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), medical professionals are encouraging "high risk groups" of Mid-Western residents to consider receiving a forth COVID-19 jab.
While not mandatory, a fourth injection will significantly benefit people 65 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years plus, aged and disability care residents and severely immunocompromised adults, according to South Mudgee Surgery GP, Dr Alex Ghanem.
"It will reduce risk of transmission and prevent people in these vulnerable groups from getting a more severe COVID infection, keeping them out of hospital. That's what the intention is with this group," Dr Ghanem said.
"ATAGI has recommended it as a good idea prior to winter."
Given there will be an anticipated influenza outbreak this winter, those wishing to receive the additional dose can couple it with their flu shot.
The additional booster can be administered four months or more after the third has been injected.
"We are expecting a surge of influenza this year. We haven't had an influenza outbreak for some time, so if you are in a high risk group, you should consider getting your flu vax at the same time as the fourth booster," Dr Ghanem said.
"For most people in these groups, they are almost ready to have that fourth booster between now and May, and in fact, the uptake has been very good so far."
Whether or not the recommendation for a fourth jab will flow onto include the remainder of the population remains to be seen.
"That's the 24 million dollar question, we don't know at this stage," Dr Ghanem said.
"Certainly if there are more variants in the future and we know that immunity wanes, it may be an option for people down the track.
"As to what happens with COVID in the future, there's still a lot unknown in terms of variants and the sort. It certainly hasn't disappeared, there's still COVID in the community. It's not over by a long shot."
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