Booster program expanded as mandates relaxed

West Australians with complex, chronic or severe medical conditions and people with a disability are now eligible to receive a winter booster dose of COVID vaccine thanks to new advice from ATAGI.

ATAGI expanded its criteria to cover more people at increased risk of severe COVID from Monday, 30 May, and the new recommendations now include people aged 16-64 years who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID illness.

This includes individuals with immunocompromising conditions, cancers, specific chronic inflammatory conditions, chronic liver disease, chronic lung disease and severe chronic kidney disease, and affected people are encouraged to consult with their GP as to their personal circumstances.

The additional winter booster dose will be provided to eligible people four months after the first booster dose, without the need for an appointment, in State-run vaccination clinics and through participating primary care providers such as GP’s, Pharmacies and Aboriginal Medical Services.

Under the new ATAGI advice, healthy people aged 16 to 64 years, who do not have a risk factor for severe COVID, are not recommended to receive an additional winter booster dose at this time, and people who have tested positive for COVID should wait for 3 months after a confirmed infection before receiving their next shot.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the expansion of the COVID winter booster program.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that even though our COVID vaccination rates are something we should be extremely proud of, the pandemic is far from over and the winter booster expansion is a positive step forward.

“I encourage anyone who falls in this cohort to step forward and receive their second booster jab with their usual GP,” Prof Price said.

“Winter is fast approaching, and we have high community transmission of COVID-19 in all corners of the country, [and] by receiving a second booster dose, you can help protect yourself against severe effects from COVID- 19 and limit transmission in the broader community.

She highlighted that people need to keep in mind that the healthcare system is currently under enormous pressure.

“COVID-19 and influenza cases are climbing, and many hospitals are over-stretched, so by expanding the booster dose program, we can help keep more people out of hospitals beds which is a win-win for all concerned.”

The move comes just as the state government announces that more public health measures are to be phased out following WA’s soft landing, including changes to the mandatory vaccination policy, effective from June 10, 2022.

The vaccine requirements in place for most workforces will be removed from this date, returning unvaccinated West Australians will no longer need seven days quarantine, and from June 15, restricted access to remote aboriginal communities will also be eliminated.

However, healthcare and health support workers in hospitals and primary health care settings; workers in residential aged care; and workers in residential disability settings must still be triple dose vaccinated to be able to enter their workplace.

Mask wearing, proof of vaccination and visitor limits in certain settings will remain and continue to be monitored by the Chief Health Officer.

COVID positive people are still required to follow strict protocols including isolating, testing and mask wearing to limit the spread, and close contacts must continue to follow close contact guidelines including daily testing and mask wearing.