Australia has shortened the interval between the primary course of COVID-19 vaccination and its booster dose to four months, starting January 4, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Friday, December 24.

Acting on the medical advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the department of health said in a media release, “The move to reduce the interval between a person’s primary course of vaccination and their booster dose from five months to four months will see approximately 7.5 million Australians eligible for their booster dose as of 4 January.”

This is further expected to be brought down to three months by January end, allowing more than 16 million people to be eligible for their booster shots. 

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“These dates have been set out of an abundance of caution to give Australians early continued protection,” Mr Hunt said during a media conference in Canberra, according to a Reuters report.

Around 90% of Australians aged 16 and over have completed their primary course of vaccination, and nearly two million have already received a booster dose. The country was also one of the first globally to start the booster-jab program for the entire population.

The government also said in the release that there is enough supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, “There are currently over 20 million doses in Australia of which over five million have already been placed with States and Primary Care teams on the basis of their forward orders.” It also added that over 151 billion booster doses have been secured for delivery over the coming year.  

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Other countries, such as South Korea, Britain, and Thailand have also reduced the interval from six months to three months, in light of the Omicron variant and the resultant surges. 

The health department also said that ‘arrangements are in place to start rolling out vaccines to children aged five to 11 years from January 10 with specialised children’s doses arriving in Australia over recent days and now undergoing batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’.

Australia has recorded an exponential growth in coronavirus cases in the past week, with New South Wales breaking its pandemic record on Wednesday.