Australia’s definition of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is set to change, with people aged over 16 years now only considered “up to date” with their vaccinations if they have had booster shots.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended moving away from the term “fully vaccinated”.

“A person is ‘up to date’ if they have completed all the doses recommended for their age and individual health needs,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Under the new rules, if it has been longer than six months since someone’s last primary course dose and they are eligible for a booster, they will be considered “overdue”.

All Australians aged over 16 years are currently eligible for a booster shot three months after their primary course.

“People under 16 years of age will continue to be considered ‘up to date’ after completing their primary course of vaccination, while severely immunocompromised people aged five years and older [will] require a third primary dose to remain up to date,” Mr Hunt said.

National cabinet agreed it would not mandate booster shots nationally, except for aged care workers.

But states and territories may decide to implement mandates in their own jurisdictions.

ATAGI had flagged it was considering changing the way it refers to COVID vaccinations, saying earlier this month the term “fully vaccinated” could be confusing.

The body’s chair Nigel Crawford told a parliamentary committee that changing the term would bring the COVID-19 vaccination program closer into line with others, like those administered to children.

“We think the best terminology is actually ‘up to date with vaccination status’, rather than ‘fully vaccinated’,” he said.

“That’s a term that we’ve used in the childhood program.”

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