Millions of Australians could soon be cleared to get a second COVID-19 booster shot after the federal government warned the nation is in the early stages of a fresh wave of the potentially fatal virus.

Currently a fourth vaccination – or second booster – is only available to those over 65, people in aged or disability care and those who are immunocompromised.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) discussed the benefits of expanding the fourth dose eligibility at a meeting on Wednesday.

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ATAGI could recommend a fourth dose for anyone over the age of 50, and allow anyone over the age of 30 to have another booster shot if they wish.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said he doesn’t expect to get ATAGI’s official advice on the extra shot until Friday.

Mr Butler also warned Australia is in the early stages of a fresh wave of COVID-19.

“Case numbers are rising, hospitalisations are up by several hundred just in the fortnight, and most state governments and the federal government are projecting that that’s going to continue for some time yet,” he said in Adelaide.

“We are absolutely committed to doing whatever we can as a government to get through this winter and get through this third Omicron wave that’s headed our way.”

Meanwhile, young people have had the largest drop in life satisfaction since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study.

The Australian National University’s COVID-19 Impact Monitoring survey has found those aged 18 to 24 had a significant reduction in life satisfaction since the beginning of 2020.

Their average life satisfaction rating now sits at 6.3 points out of a possible 10, after falling 0.5 points.

The survey of more than 3500 people assessed how the pandemic affected their lives and also found men and women experienced a similar drop in life satisfaction since the pandemic began.

But those over 55 were less likely to suffer a drop in life satisfaction levels compared to those under 55.

“Young Australians are still at the highest risk of suffering the worst mental and wellbeing effects of COVID-19,” study co-author Nicholas Biddle said.

“Clearly, we need to make sure our young people are given the right support and care to help them deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.”

Prof Biddle said greater access to employment and education opportunities should be factored into COVID-19 policy solutions for young people.

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Peter Fray
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