Covid-19 booster jabs: everything you need to know

Aussie adults can now receive Covid-19 booster shots, so why are third jabs needed and who’s first in line?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, backed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, has approved Covid-19 booster shots for Australians aged 18 years and older, six months after their second dose.

In a statement, the TGA said people could receive the booster shot (third dose) regardless of whether their first doses where AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, although data on the use of Pfizer as a booster with other Covid-19 vaccines “is more limited”.

Here’s what we know so far:

Why do I need a Covid-19 booster shot?

A Covid booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the original shot(s) has begun to decrease over time.

Deborah Cromer, who leads the Infection Epidemiology and Policy Analytics Group at UNSW’s Kirby Institute, said evidence from around the world “clearly shows” immunity against Covid-19 wanes over time.

“This translates into reduced protection from the disease,” Dr Cromer says.

“In parallel, studies show that boosting with another dose of vaccine is successful in increasing these immune levels, and so brings protection back up to very high levels.”

TGA deputy secretary Professor John Skerritt said while the first two doses of vaccine “significantly reduced” the chance of becoming seriously ill, the booster would decrease the chance of mild Covid.

So when can I get my Covid-19 booster shot?

Covid-19 booster shots will be available across Australia from November 8.

People aged 12 and over with severely compromised immune systems are already eligible for a third jab and can get it from any venues already participating in the vaccine rollout.

Earlier this year, the government secured 60 million doses of Pfizer for 2022 and 25 million doses for 2023, which will help enable booster coverage.

As a result of the just announced booster program, Pfizer will now be made available to pharmacies and GPs will be able to administer Moderna.

Who’s first in line for a Covid-19 booster shot?

At this stage the jab will only be available to adults over 18 who had their second vaccination six months ago.

People in disability and aged care who were fully vaccinated more than six months ago will be prioritised, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“We want to encourage every Australian who is eligible to continue to come forward and complete their primary course, and when they are due six months plus to come forward for their boosters,” Mr Hunt said.

Can I mix and match Covid-19 vaccines?

Yes, you can.

“It’s a universal booster and so it’s available for people who’ve had Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, although nobody who’s had their second dose of Moderna will yet qualify as that’s been more recent,” Mr Hunt explained.

Prof Skerritt added there will be 1.6 million Australians who have passed the six-month vaccination mark by January 1.

How do I book my Covid-19 booster shot?

You will be able to book your appointment by checking the date of your second dose on your vaccination certificate and making a booking six months after that date, according to the Department of Health.

The Australian Government clinic finder will be updated to support people making bookings for boosters once the ATAGI advice is formalised and the program is ready to roll out.

“We have the supplies, we have a distribution mechanism, we will work with the states, the GPs, the pharmacies, the Commonwealth vaccination clinics, the Indigenous vaccination clinics to ensure that everything is in place,” Mr Hunt said.

How long does the Covid-19 booster last?

Prof Skerritt summed this up the best when he said “no-one knows about the duration of protection post this booster”.

Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam, a virologist at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University in Malaysia, said while highly dependent on individual circumstances and providing there weren’t any further emerging strains of COVID, a booster shot should provide between six to 12 months of immune protection.

When will younger people be eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot?

While Prof Skerritt said the TGA is also working with other companies such as Moderna on potential boosters, there’s no news yet on when the Pfizer booster will be available for people aged under 18 in Australia.

Mr Hunt said the TGA and ATAGI have been closely monitoring local and international data about the frequency and severity of Covid-19 infection in fully vaccinated individuals to inform booster strategies.

Written by Liz McGrath.