Federal Health Minister Mark Butler addresses the media on Thursday afternoon

July 7, 2022

The number of people eligible to receive a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine will expand dramatically from next Monday (July 11).

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said on Thursday afternoon he had accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in the wake of the latest COVID wave which is stretching hospitals and health services around the nation.

The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron are more transmissible and are evading immunity from earlier vaccinations and prior COVID-19 infections.

Minister Butler said there were almost 4000 hospital beds across Australia currently filled with COVID-19 patients, up 1000 in the past few weeks.

The number of people in intensive care units had also risen 40 per cent during the past week alone.

“And we are only at the early stages (of the latest wave),” Minister Butler said.

From Monday, the age limit for a fourth shot will be lowered for millions of Australians.

Fourth doses were previously not available to anyone aged under 65, except for First Nations residents aged over 50 and immunocompromised people.

It is now recommended that everyone aged 50 and over should receive a fourth dose.

People aged 30 to 49 can receive a fourth vaccination if they choose to, but it is not a specific ATAGI recommendation.

Minister Butler emphasised that two doses of vaccine were “simply not enough” to protect people during this latest wave.

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Health Minister Yvette D’Ath

The change coincided with Queensland Health announcing 17 more COVID-19 deaths across the State on Thursday morning.

This takes the Queensland toll since the pandemic began to 1302, including 48 deaths so far in July.

Health Minister Yvette D’ath said there were currently 697 COVID and 96 influenza patients in Queensland hospitals.

More than 2000 Queensland Health staff were currently furloughed due to COVID, and 7.6 per cent of the Queensland Health workforce was off due to some form of sick leave.

“This is putting pressure on our health system and we know that we haven’t hit the peak of the wave,” Minister D’Ath said.

“The modelling says that we should expect it will get worse leading up to the end of the month and early August.”

Minister D’Ath urged people to get their vaccinations up-to-date, saying less than 50 per cent of eligible Queenslanders had received their fourth dose.

And only 63 per cent of people eligible to receive their third booster shot had done so.

“Two doses are not enough when it comes to Omicron and the sub-variants,” Minister D’Ath said.

She also urged Queenslanders to wear masks in crowded areas and issued a reminder they were still mandatory on public transport.

* * *

The latest Queensland Health statistics show the death toll in the Darling Downs Health region stands at 58.

The latest two deaths were reported on Tuesday, and take the toll for July to eight.

southburnett.com.au sought a breakdown of this figure from both Darling Downs Health and Queensland Health.

We wanted to know in which Local Government Areas the deaths had occurred and the age, sex and vaccination status of the patients but were told this information was not available.

* * *

There has been no change in face mask restrictions in Queensland.

Currently, face masks must be worn:

  • In healthcare settings, residential aged care, disability accommodation, prisons or detention centres
  • On public transport, including while waiting on the platform or at a stop
  • In a taxi, rideshare vehicle or commercial shuttle, including while waiting at a taxi rank or pick-up area
  • On planes
  • When outside of your home or accommodation if:
    • You have a temperature equal to or higher than 37.5 degrees
    • You have COVID-19 symptoms
    • You’re awaiting a COVID-19 PCR test result
  • If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, are a close contact, or are an international traveller (in accordance with other public health directions).

Masks are not currently required in schools – including for staff, students and visitors – but schools may have their own mask policies.

Masks are still recommended whenever people cannot socially distance.

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