COVID-19 booster shots will be fast-tracked in Australia as health authorities warn immunity to the Omicron variant begins to wane six months after a second vaccination.
- Booster shots previously could be received six months from vaccination
- New laboratory data and evaluation of booster rollouts overseas indicates immunity to omicron declines by six months after last dose
- The Omicron variant does not appear to cause more serious illness, from early evidence
The federal government has announced people will now be able to receive a Moderna or a Pfizer booster shot five months after their second vaccination, rather than six.
Last week, the nation’s vaccine advisory body, ATAGI, said there was no evidence to support fast-tracking the booster rollout.
However, in the week since then, new laboratory data and an evaluation of booster rollouts overseas has indicated immunity against Omicron begins to decline earlier that first thought.
“There is evidence that, by six months, there is some declining protection against Omicron and, so, ATAGI felt that there was a good reason to get people boosted before that six-month mark,” the nation’s Chief Health Officer, Brendan Murphy, said.
On Friday, premiers and chief ministers were advised that the Omicron variant does not appear to be causing more serious illness, although there is still more to be learned.
“We are still protected with your primary vaccination and people shouldn’t be worried, but boosters are very important to give that extra immunity, particularly as the Omicron variant is likely to spread around the world,” Professor Murphy said.
Both Professor Murphy and Health Minister Greg Hunt received a Moderna booster shot on Sunday, which has now been approved for use by ATAGI.
The Moderna booster dosage is half the usual dose and will be accessible at community pharmacies and health clinics, subject to availability.
Mr Hunt said there was no need for a booster shot to match the brand of a person’s initial vaccines and that all doses offered good protection.
“If the [Therapeutic Goods Administration] has approved a vaccine, it doesn’t matter which one you are taking, so long as it is appropriate,” Mr Hunt said.
The government recently bought 25 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with 15 million of those slated to be used in the first half of 2022 as boosters.
More than 670,000 Australians have already received a booster shot.