Pfizer Has Been Approved as a Vaccine Booster in Australia. Here’s What We Know

Pfizer Has Been Approved as a Vaccine Booster in Australia. Here’s What We Know
(Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP, Getty Images)

As Australia speeds towards its vaccine targets, it’s time to think about booster shots. Today the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals aged over 18.

Here’s what we know about the state of affairs with booster shots in Australia right now.

Who can get a Pfizer booster shot now they’ve been approved?

The TGA said in a statement that the provisional approval means those over 18 can receive a booster or third dose of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine at least six months after the completion of their primary vaccination.

This means those who have been fully vaccinated for longer than six months can start to consider a booster shot.

It seems the TGA’s advice currently is that those who received initial doses of Pfizer should also receive the Pfizer booster. It also said that a Pfizer booster can be given with any primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine that has been registered for use in Australia.

However, the TGA did say the data on the use of a Pfizer booster with a different primary vaccine series is more limited.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) will provide further advice on the use of booster shots soon.

This news follows ATAGI’s recommendation that severely immunocompromised individuals get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

What about Moderna boosters?

A booster shot of the other mRNA vaccine, Moderna (aka Spikevax), is yet to be approved in Australia.

Moderna is working on booster vaccines, some of which have already been approved internationally in the U.S. and Europe. Given this information, we can probably expect to see Moderna booster shots approved here at some point.

Australia’s vaccine agreement with Moderna also covers 15 million doses of variant-specific versions of the vaccine, which are expected in early 2022. It’s unclear whether these will be considered boosters or separate courses of vaccination.

Does AstraZeneca have a booster?

AstraZeneca has been allowed as the third dose for immunocompromised individuals in Australia, but it’s still preferred that Pfizer or Moderna be given where possible.

As for booster shots? There hasn’t been much information on the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) front.

Booster doses of AstraZeneca have been approved as safe in the U.K, which signals it could also be approved here.

AstraZeneca is slightly different to Pfizer and Moderna as it is a more traditional vector vaccine rather than mRNA. It is also the only COVID-19 vaccine Australia has been able to produce locally.

Which booster should you get?

Some research has indicated it might be more effective to mix and match COVID-19 booster shots, however, ATAGI is yet to report its advice on this matter.

The TGA did say research in this area is limited, so it’s best to wait for the health advice in the meantime.

Based on international approvals, it seems likely that all COVID-19 boosters will be recommended at least six months after the initial two doses.

The Australian government hasn’t announced how or when the COVID-19 booster rollout will begin, but we’ll update this article as soon as we know more.