Booster COVID-19 doses will be mandatory for aged care workers across the country under new vaccine advice.
States and territories agreed during Thursday’s national cabinet meeting it would be up to them whether to mandate boosters for other groups.
Under new advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), people aged 16 and older who have received a booster are considered “up to date” with their vaccines.
Those who got a second dose more than six months ago are “overdue”.
Boosters are recommended three months after a second vaccine.
Children under the age of 16 are still considered “up to date” following two vaccine doses.
However, children aged five and older with severely compromised immune systems need a booster to remain “up to date”.
The Federal Government said ATAGI’s advice only covered the management of COVID-19 within Australia and not vaccine requirements for international arrivals.
International tourists must have two doses when the border reopens later this month.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said while the vaccination requirements had changed, it was important to listen to the medical experts.
“The reality is that circumstances change as the medical advice comes along,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.
“That’s the reality of (expert) advice as they learn more, as there are further studies and larger sample groups – they will do whatever’s the safest in their judgement and that’s the advice that you act on.”
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles said booster shots were critical for people.
“It’s clearly important to get us through this and that is the evidence we’re seeing from around the world,” he said.
“It makes sense to me that you need a booster shot if you’re going to be working in aged care, but the fundamental point here is people need to be going off and getting their booster.”
States will decide if they want to enforce booster mandates for travellers, as has been flagged by Victoria.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, premiers and chief ministers agreed a national mandate would only apply to aged care workers under intense pressure from the Omicron wave.
The sector has recorded more than 500 virus deaths so far this year.
The Federal Government has thrown a task force and booster payments at the problem as workers request a 25 per cent pay rise.
Morrison requested a federal audit by the second week of March about how prepared the country was for anticipated winter waves of COVID-19 and the flu.
East coast states agreed to work on a plan to restart the cruise ship industry, while everyone agreed to adopt the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s guidelines for aged care visitors.