A recommendation for a fourth COVID-19 booster has come into effect for some who now have the option to get an additional layer of protection ahead of winter.
Following direction from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), medical professionals are encouraging high risk groups of Lithgow region residents to consider receiving the "winter booster".
While not mandatory, the jab will significantly benefit people 65 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years plus, aged and disability care residents and immunocompromised people 16 and over, according to Lithgow Valley Medical Practice GP, Dr Asaad Baraz.
"This is to enhance their immune system," Dr Baraz said.
"What happens when we have a dose for the COVID vaccine, we get immunity for about six to eight months. The idea of the winter booster is to increase the immunity of those people and keep them safer during the winter time because the risk of catching influenza and COVID in winter is higher."
Given there will be an anticipated influenza outbreak this winter, those wishing to receive the additional dose can couple it with their flu shot should the timing align.
The additional booster can be administered four months or more after the third has been injected.
"Over the last couple of years the focus has been on COVID. There haven't been many cases of influenza during that time because we were taking extra measures like social distancing, wearing masks and cleaning etcetera. So now with restrictions lifted, people are less careful with these things," Dr Baraz said.
"That's why we're expecting higher numbers of influenza this year and that's why the influenza vaccine this year is very important."
Whether or not the recommendation for the "winter booster" will flow onto include the remainder of the population remains to be seen.
"We have to keep our eyes and ears open because the recommendation might well change to include everybody to have the winter booster, there's a very good chance this may happen," Dr Baraz said.
"You rarely get one recommendation the way it is, there are usually additions and changes, becoming more inclusive of other people."
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