COVID-19 cases remain high in Australia and a surge in cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants described as ‘masters at evading immunity’ are expected to worsen in coming months. At the same time flu and other respiratory viruses have been surging.
How protective are our current vaccines against BA.4/5?
Each new subvariant of Omicron has been better able to evade immunity from vaccination than its predecessor. Although current vaccines based on the Wuhan strain still provide good protection against serious illness and death with BA.4/5, they are unlikely to provide much, if any, protection against infection or symptomatic disease.
Who is eligible for a fourth dose?
People should get another COVID-19 booster dose. If they had their initial booster dose 3 months ago and are:
- 50 years or older
- a resident of an aged care or disability care facility
- severely immunocompromised
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and aged 50 years and older
- 16 years or older with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness
- 16 years or older with a disability
A fourth dose is also available to people aged 30 to 49 years old if they choose.
People who had COVID-19 after their first booster should wait at least 3 months before having a winter dose.
Should the over 30’s get the vaccine now or wait for new vaccines?
At the time of writing only 35.6% of the eligible population 30+ (11,518,173 people) have only received the fourth vaccine dose. Only 71.3% of eligible population have received their third vaccine dose, which means around 5 million Australians are significantly under-immunised.
Most experts feel that even with BA 5 waning at the time of writing, it’s best to be immunised when you’re eligible. It’s not at all clear whether a ‘variant’ vaccine which includes BA1/2 and BA 5 will equip you for the next variant any better than the existing vaccine.