Experts consider fourth COVID-19 vaccine

A nurse gives a COVID-19 vaccine.
Widespread fourth vaccine jabs and a return to mask mandates are being considered in the COVID fight -AAP Image

Australia's immunisation experts are being urged to consider expanding eligibility for a fourth COVID-19 vaccination to the wider population as the nation grapples with rising case numbers.

Waning immunity is contributing to increased pressure on hospitals and a fourth vaccine dose would be welcomed, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant says. 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is expected to discuss at a Wednesday meeting whether more people should be eligible for a fourth dose. 

A fourth vaccination is currently only available for people over-65 and those considered vulnerable.

"There's many people, me included, who are about six months since their third dose. I wouldn't mind a top up in my immune protection heading into ... a wave that's coming," Dr Chant told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"But I also respect that ATAGI is juggling the amount of vaccines we need to give to people and it's complex. 

"No one said navigating a pandemic is easy ... but ATAGI will provide that advice."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged federal health experts to move quickly on a recommendation.

"We need to broaden it ... there's a simple rule in this: every extra dose helps," he said.

"If there is no obstacle to (vaccine) supply then I'd like to see the rules change as quickly as possible to allow a fourth dose for a much greater age bracket."

Meanwhile, states and territory health experts are considering whether to reintroduce mask mandates to curb the case increase.

Dr Chant urged people to consider wearing masks in enclosed spaces to curb the spread of disease in NSW.

"We can do simple things to keep us all safe," she said.

"Unfortunately although we would all like to see COVID well behind us, we are going to have to respond to these waves."

As Victoria's death toll rose above 4000, Premier Daniel Andrews said he couldn't make it any clearer that vaccines worked.

"They may not prevent you from getting these sub variants, but they will - in the vast majority of cases - prevent you from finishing up in hospital on a machine to breathe," he told reporters.

On Tuesday there were 3740 people with COVID in hospitals across the country, the highest levels since February during the height of the Omicron wave.

More than 36,000 infections were reported nationally and experts warn case numbers will climb even further as winter progresses.

International arrivals no longer need to declare their vaccination status to enter the country.


NSW: 10,504 cases, 14 deaths, 1782 in hospital with 58 in ICU

Tasmania: 1588 cases, two deaths, 76 in hospital with two in ICU

Victoria: 8740 cases, 16 deaths, 543 in hospital with 28 in ICU

ACT: 1199 cases, one death, 136 in hospital with two in ICU

NT: 342 cases, no deaths, 21 in hospital with none in ICU

WA: 5234 cases, one death, 238 in hospital with nine in ICU

SA: 3141 cases, one death, 234 in hospital with 10 in ICU

QLD: 5698 cases, 11 deaths, 710 in hospital with 14 in ICU