Another COVID-19 booster for over-75s: ATAGI

Alisha Dorrigan

4/09/2023 4:30:48 PM

The new guidance was released at the same time as an announcement on the upcoming closure of the COVID-19 Vaccination Training Program.

COVID vaccination.
ATAGI has recommended an additional covid booster for all people aged 75 years or older.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has released a new statement on the COVID-19 vaccination program, the first update on boosters since its February release that recommended widespread uptake of additional COVID-19 vaccination doses.
In the February statement, ATAGI advised a booster dose was either recommended or should be considered for anyone aged 18 years or older, regardless of the number of prior doses received. To date, 3.8 million booster doses have been administered in 2023.
According to the latest advice, ATAGI only recommends an additional booster dose for people aged 75 years or older, while another dose can be considered for those aged 65–74 years, or for those aged 18–74 years with severe immunocompromise.
For adults without severe immunocompromise and who have already received a booster dose in 2023, no further doses are recommended. For those who are yet to receive their 2023 booster dose based on the February statement, ATAGI encourages receiving this dose as soon as possible.
The statement does not include any changes to the recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations for children, and bivalent Omicron-based mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations remain the preferred immunisation for people aged 12 years or older.
A six-month interval between doses or previous infection is still advised; however, ATAGI now states that a person may be vaccinated earlier where appropriate, such as before overseas travel, planned immunosuppressive therapy or if someone cannot easily reschedule their vaccination appointment.
The new guidance also acknowledges the difficulty in determining the timing of previous infections due to a significant decline in testing rates, stating ‘where previous infection details are unknown, it is appropriate to proceed with a first 2023 dose, and an additional dose for eligible people outlined in this update’.
COVID-19 cases have been declining in recent weeks, and a significant proportion of the population is now assumed to be well protected against severe disease through ‘hybrid immunity’, a combination of immunity from previous vaccination in addition to previous infection. Therefore, the vaccination strategy is aimed at targeting those most at risk.
Most cases requiring hospitalisation occur in people aged 75 years or older, with this age group also being shown to have the most significant mortality benefit from receiving an additional booster.
Other people who, if eligible, will also have the largest benefit from additional doses include people: 

  • without hybrid immunity as they have no known history of COVID-19 infection
  • with comorbidities, disability or complex health needs that increase their risk of severe COVID-19
  • who live in a residential aged care facility.
Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler has welcomed the announcement and reiterates the importance of remaining up-to-date with the immunisation program, reminding those who have yet to receive a booster dose this year to do so.
‘It is really important people remember COVID-19 is still with us, so I encourage people to keep following the vaccination advice of the experts on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation,’ he said.
‘For other people who were advised to get a 2023 booster but haven’t had one, it’s not too late to come forward and get one.’
According to ATAGI, vaccines are in development to provide protection against omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 (nicknamed ‘Kraken’), but are not yet approved for use. Future advice will be informed by ongoing surveillance of COVID-19 infection rates, clinical outcomes and new variants, alongside vaccine effectiveness and availability.
The ATAGI statement release coincides with the recently announced closure of the COVID-19 Vaccination Training Program (CVTP), with the Department of Health and Aged Care no longer producing bespoke modules as it transitions to a more sustainable operation.
From October, additional training through the CVTP will no longer be required to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program.
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Dr Matthew Robert Kiln   5/09/2023 8:21:09 PM

I fail to see any sense in giving more rather disappointing Covid 19 vaccinations to any patients currently. i suppose the only logical reason might be to use up excess stocks of these over hyped sometimes useless vaccines. I am not having one even as some one in a supposed high risk group.