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 in the midst of another wave, which means getting a covid 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. Those aged 12-15 may also get a booster dose if they are severely immunocompromised, or have a disability or health issues that increase the risk of COVID-19.
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 cases 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 most recent 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 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 an Omicron-specific booster jab?
It’s been a while 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) recently changed its recommendations to allow more people to be eligible for the bivalent Omicron BA.1 vaccine, which is a variant-specific booster.
Here’s what ATAGI’s recent recommendations say:
- The Pfizer bivalent vaccine can be used as an alternative vaccine to any of the available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer original vaccine, Moderna bivalent vaccine or Moderna original vaccine) for any booster dose in people aged 18 years or older who are currently recommended to receive a COVID-19 booster.
- In those who are eligible for a booster dose, ATAGI does not have a preference for bivalent mRNA vaccines over original mRNA vaccines.
- Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine should be given at least 3 months after the most recent COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection.
- As with other mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer bivalent vaccine can be co-administered with other non-COVID-19 vaccines.
- The Pfizer bivalent vaccine is not recommended for the primary course of vaccination (the first two doses in most people or first three doses in severely immunocompromised people).
- ATAGI does not currently recommend use of the Pfizer bivalent vaccine as a booster in anyone aged under 18 years as it is not registered for use in this age group.
In clinical trials, Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine proved to be 1.6 times more effective at neutralising antibodies of the Omicron BA.1 variant than the original vaccine.
This is the second bivalent vaccine on offer in Australia after the Moderna Spikevax was approved in October.
The vaccine will be made available from December 12, 2022.
How can you book an appointment?
Similar to the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, booster shots (all COVID vaccines) 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 jab.
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 or four of your vaccine doses, including your booster(s), 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.
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