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COVID vaccines

Australia to roll out fourth COVID vaccine shot ahead of winter

Move comes amid steady rise in cases

Australia is one of the most heavily vaccinated countries against the coronavirus.   © Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Australia will roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to its most vulnerable population starting next month, authorities said on Friday, as the country looks to limit fresh outbreaks ahead of winter.

The decision comes amid a steady rise in cases fueled by the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the omicron strain and concerns of co-circulation of COVID-19 and flu viruses during colder months as most social distancing restrictions end.

A second booster shot will be offered from April 4 to people who had their previous booster shot at least four months ago and are over 65 years, Indigenous Australians over 50, people with disability or severely immunocompromised, Health Minister Greg Hunt said during a media briefing.

Australia, which is among the most heavily vaccinated countries against the new coronavirus, has so far administered two vaccine doses to 95% of people above 16. Nearly 67% has been given a third, or booster shot, official data showed.

This has helped Australia to restrict its COVID-19 numbers, with about 4 million cases and 5,824 deaths registered since the pandemic began, far lower than many comparable countries. A total of around 35,000 new cases and 16 deaths were reported by late morning on Friday, with four states due to report later.

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