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New advice recommends additional winter booster (5th dose) for cancer patients

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Severely immunocompromised people, including people with cancer aged 16 years and over, are now recommended to have a winter booster (5th dose) of COVID-19 vaccine.

Cancer Australia has issued this statement following the latest recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), to maximize the level of immune response for people with cancer.

For people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, ATAGI recommends an additional booster dose known as the “winter booster dose” 4 months after the 1st booster dose. This includes:

  • people aged 16 years or older who are severely immunocompromised, such as people with cancer receiving chemotherapy (to check eligibility visit here);
  • adults aged 65 years or older;
  • residents of aged care or disability care facilities; and 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or older.

This means that for people who are severely immunocompromised, 3 primary doses are recommended for those aged 5 years or older, and 2 booster doses (5 doses total) are recommended for those aged 16 years or older.

“Prevention of severe illness from COVID-19 remains the primary goal of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program. These recommendations for an additional booster dose focus on protecting vulnerable cancer patients among others, against severe disease and reducing the potential burden on the healthcare system over the coming months,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.

The rollout of the additional booster dose starts from April 2022, coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program.

“An influenza vaccine can be co-administered with the additional booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine. However, if the patient with cancer is not yet eligible for their additional booster dose, the influenza vaccine can be given ahead of the additional booster dose,” said Professor Keefe.

Cancer Australia has developed comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer in Australia. These FAQs are updated with the latest recommendations and available national and international published evidence.

Tailored information on the COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer can be found here. This information has been developed in collaboration with Indigenous people and health experts.

Information on COVID-19 and vaccines for people affected by cancer is available in 10 commonly spoken languages in Australia other than English, to support the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse populations: Arabic (العربية); Chinese, Simplified (简体中文); Chinese, Traditional (繁體中文); Greek (Ελληνικά); Hindi (हिन्दी); Italian (Italiano); Korean (한국어); Spanish (Español); Tagalog (Tagalog); Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt).