Over 60 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but another shot may be in store for those hoping to maintain their immunity. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for adults six months after their second dose.
It is currently unknown how long vaccinations against COVID-19 last. A study from the United States’ Centre for Disease Control found that vaccine effectiveness dropped from 91.8 per cent to 75 per cent over time. However, more trials will need to be undertaken to confidently draw conclusions.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the nation’s peak advisory body for vaccines, says a booster shot may be needed for those whose immune systems “did not produce the optimal response to the first two doses”.
Pfizer is currently the only vaccine provider signed up to administer boosters, but other companies may join the fray throughout the rollout. Vaccinated people over the age of 18 will be able to have the Pfizer booster shot regardless of the brand they used for prior vaccinations.
According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, up to 500,000 Australians from the earlier rounds of vaccination may be eligible for a booster shot as early as next week.
The ATAGI is yet to determine who will be recommended to receive the booster shot.
“Subject to the ATAGI advice, we intend to commence the general population booster program no later than November 8,” said Mr Hunt.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has only recently come out in support of booster shots after previously recommending prioritising initial shots to poorer developing nations. After reviewing data on breakthrough infections among immunocompromised people, WHO says such people should look into receiving a third shot.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says it is likely a third dose “would be enough” for most eligible Australians.
With over 30 million Australians having received at least one dose, Mr Hunt encourages people to continue to sign up for the jab in the hopes of a return to normalcy.
“There is more work to be done, and I continue to urge people to come forward,” he said.
If all goes well, booster shots may be available in the first or second week of November.