With 74% of the over 16 population in Australia now fully vaccinated, and 87% having had at least one dose, the question now turns towards vaccine booster shots.
Now, Aussies are one step closer to getting their third shot, as the countries medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine as a third dose in Australia.
The TGA have said that it doesn’t matter which shot you’ve had previously and that Pfizer will be safe for everyone to get. Although the data is limited on mixing vaccines, the consensus appears to be that it’s both safe and effective.
Only those above the age of 18 will be able to get the booster shots when the government begins the third dose programme early next month and the decision still has to be made by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation as to who will get them and when.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has said that the booster programme will commence “no later than November 8.”
“We have the supplies, we have a distribution mechanism, we will work with the states, the GPs, the pharmacies.”
The shots are designed to be given at least 6 months after getting the second dose, but not everyone will need them, at least right away.
There is a key distinction between needing a third dose and wanting a booster shot. For some people, two doses of the vaccine will not be enough to reach strong levels of immunity against COVID-19. These are the people for whom the vaccine will most likely be targeted in the rollout of the booster programme.
That means those with compromised immune systems, chronic health conditions, or the very elderly will be first in line for the third round of jabs as they are less likely to be able to mount a robust immune response from two jabs alone.
Booster shots are also recommended for those working on the frontline, with healthcare workers and key transport workers also likely to need booster jabs.
While the rest of the country is likely to receive a third dose at some point in time, it’s not yet clear exactly when or if the boosters are needed for the general population.
There is evidence that immunity begins to wane after six months, and that a booster shot would be sensible to get at this time, but while there are still sections of the population without a first or second dose, it may not be government priority to roll out boosters to everyone just yet.
Hunt also clarified that a third dose of the vaccine would not be necessary for people to take part in the freedoms granted to the vaccinated in states like NSW and VIC where restrictions have begun to lift.