It’s been over a year since COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out in Australia and many of us have now had two, if not three, jabs. The pandemic situation is continuing to evolve as we deal with new variants and the upcoming winter season, which means getting a booster shot is more important than ever.
Here’s what we know about the state of affairs with booster shots in Australia right now.
Who can get a booster shot?
Booster doses are available and recommended for every Australian over 16 years of age who has had both doses of their primary COVID-19 vaccine. Under 16s are not presently being recommended for booster shots by ATAGI.
The Department of Health originally recommended the gap between the second dose and booster shot should be at least six months. However, a surge in case shifted this recommendation to at least 3 months.
To figure out whether you’re due for a booster shot you can find the date of your second vaccine dose on your COVID-19 digital certificate.
Those who are severely immunocompromised are encouraged to receive a third primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine after a minimum of two months after their second dose. They, along with pregnant people, are also recommended to receive a booster dose according to the same rules as the general population, which is currently after 3 months.
What about a second booster jab?
It’s been a few months since boosters were initially rolled out, meaning it’s becoming time to think about a second booster or fourth jab of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommended that from April 2022, anyone who fits into these categories get a second winter booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine:
- aged 65 years or over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over
- a resident of an aged care or disability care facility
- aged 16 years and over and severely immunocompromised. For people in this group, the winter vaccine dose will be a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose (three primary doses, first booster and winter booster).
Eligible people must wait at least 4 months since their last booster to get the winter jab. If you’re in one of these categories and have been infected with COVID-19 since your last booster you’ll need to wait 4 months since your infection.
The winter COVID-19 booster can also be given at the same time as the 2022 flu vaccine.
It seems likely that second booster eligibility will be expanded to the general population in the coming months to prepare for a potential winter surge. ATAGI said it is monitoring the situation, so keep an eye on the guidelines in case things change.
Which boosters are available?
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has said that both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are considered equally acceptable as booster vaccines. This means you can receive either vaccine as a booster shot regardless of which vaccine you received initially.
As for Vaxzevria (previously AstraZeneca), ATAGI said this brand can be used when an mRNA vaccine is “contraindicated or a person declines vaccination with an mRNA vaccine”.
Novavax can be used if no other COVID-19 vaccine is considered suitable for that person.
How can you book an appointment?
Similar to the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, booster shots are available to be booked online and can be given by your local GP, pharmacy or health clinic, where available.
You can find use the vaccine clinic finder to book a slot and find a place near you to get a booster.
A reminder that COVID-19 vaccines are free and it’s hugely important to stay on top of your booster appointments or to book in for an initial course of jabs if you haven’t already.
How do you show proof of your booster shot?
After you’ve received your booster jab you’ll see it appear on your immunisation record which is linked to MyGov and Medicare.
The system has been updated to now show all three of your vaccine doses, including your booster, on your digital certificate.
Services Australia says you’ll need to re-download an updated vaccine certificate after your booster if you had previously saved it offline, to your device’s digital wallet or shared it with a state check-in app.
This article has been updated with additional information on COVID-19 booster shots.