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Winter safety: Getting a 'winter' COVID booster

Last week, Australia reached a count of over 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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If you have recently had an infection of COVID-19, no matter the variant, you should still get your winter booster shot. [Source: iStock]

The pace of COVID’s spread has begun to speed up in 2022 due to new Omicron subvariants, which are estimated to be 40 percent more transmissible than the first Omicron variant.

As the country heads into a very cold winter where experts are warning of an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, how can you protect yourself during the colder winter months?

Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, says the big answer to this problem for vulnerable people, such as those aged 65 and over and those living in aged care facilities, is to get a winter booster to reduce severe symptoms if you contract COVID-19.

The eligibility for the fourth dose of the vaccine is also being expanded to 7.4 million more Australians, including people aged 30 to 50, from July 11.

Minister Butler says, “We are in the early stages of a third Omicron wave and our Government is absolutely committed to making sure as many people as possible are protected with the vaccine.

“My message to everyone living in Australia aged 50 and over is to make sure you have the greatest protection against COVID-19 by having a fourth dose as soon as possible."

Who is eligible?

Getting a winter booster is recommended and encouraged for:

  • People aged 50 and over
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People who are severely immunocompromised
  • People who live with a medical condition that increases their risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms or illnesses
  • People with disability who have significant or complex care needs or comorbidities that increase the risk of poor outcomes

Accessing the winter booser

If you have recently had an infection of COVID-19, no matter the variant, you should still get your winter booster shot.

However, the Department of Health recommends waiting to get vaccinated for three months after a COVID infection or waiting four months after a previous COVID-19 booster dose.

If you live in residential aged care, then you will be able to get a winter booster through an in-reach clinic program, which is voluntary to participate in.

For those in the community, you can use the COVID-19 Clinic Finder to find your nearest vaccination clinic.

Alternatively, use the new Easy Vaccine Access (EVA) service to book a vaccination appointment by contacting 0481 611 382. This is a call back service and runs between 7 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

You just need to SMS 'Hey Eva' to the above number, and provide your name, best date and time for a vaccination, your contact number, and your preferred language.

How will another booster help?

Getting a booster dose for winter will help get your immune system prepared to take on COVID-19.

A booster can provide protection against:

  • Getting infected with the COVID-19 virus
  • Severe disease and symptoms
  • Dying from the virus

A study from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) found that people aged 70 and over had a significant reduction in hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 if they had received a third dose of the vaccine. This significant benefit was also recorded for the 40 to 69 year old demographic.

Lead author from the NCIRS and Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales, Bette Liu, says, "In Australia, about 70 percent of the eligible population has received a third COVID-19 vaccine dose.

"Our study shows that optimal protection occurs when vaccine recommendations are followed; I urge those 30 percent who are yet to receive a third dose to do so as soon as possible.

"COVID-19 vaccination and vaccination for other respiratory viruses such as flu are particularly important to reduce health system burden as we see a surge in these respiratory viral infections over winter."

Other winter safeguards

If you want to add another layer of protection to your winter, then it can also be a great time to get vaccinated against this year's influenza (flu) strain.

The Immunisation Coalition (IC) was excited to see some States providing free influenza vaccinations for everyone, as current influenza cases climb and hospital admissions for the flu increase.

"Ideally, we should have the whole country working in unison to combat influenza in 2022," says Kim Sampson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the IC.

“In most parts of Australia, we are experiencing a severe influenza season, which has arrived early, but is likely to last for many months to come.

"However, it’s not too late to get vaccinated and we have plenty of vaccines available, so my suggestion is to get vaccinated now, while it’s free, to prevent being infected with influenza this year."

Many places that provide vaccinations, like doctor’s clinics or pharmacies, are now providing double vaccination spots to get your flu and COVID-19 shot at the same time.

Other protections against illness include hand hygiene, protective equipment (like masks), and social distancing.

You can read more in our article, 'Keeping protected from winter sicknesses'.

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