Australia announced on Thursday that it will expand the rollout of the fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccines next week in bid to tackle a continuous surge in hospital admissions caused by the highly transmissible novel Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Following a revision by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), an additional 7.4 million people will be eligible for a fourth Covid-19 booster shot beginning next week, according to the public health agency.
“This will help provide additional protection from severe disease against the emerging surge of Omicron subvariant infections and reduce the burden on Australian hospitals and the health care system in coming months,” said the Australian Health Minister Mark Butler in the statement.
Pandemic experts have warned that the new subvariants, which spread more rapidly than previous coronavirus variants, could cause an increase in hospitalizations and fatalities in a number of nations where they have recently become the dominant strains.
Earlier this week, Australia ended another major restriction by scrapping a rule that required international travelers to declare their COVID vaccination status.
Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, having given two doses to 95% of its population over the age of 16, and more than 70% have been given a third shot, official data showed.