Let’s talk about boosters.

Foster Medical Centre Mirror Article for November 10

Booster shots are now available to all people who have had their second dose at least 6 months ago. We have plenty of vaccines and plenty of availability.

So why a booster? 

The vaccines we have in Australia (AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna) are extremely effective at preventing severe disease and death. They reduce the risk of getting COVID and of transmitting it to others. But overseas data is emerging that there is a waning of effect after about six months. Fully vaccinated status remains as a two dose course of the vaccine… by getting or not getting a booster your vaccination status does not change. It doesn’t change your digital certificate, it doesn’t change your immunisation history statement. But a booster dose after 6 months triggers a significantly stronger immune response which will protect you for longer and more effectively.

At the moment the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or ATAGI, has approved the Pfizer vaccine for boosters. It does not matter if you had AstraZeneca as your primary course, the Pfizer vaccine will be the booster. We would especially strongly encourage people in high risk groups (such as people in aged care facilities, healthcare workers, people living in disability care facilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) to get the booster, but it is open to everyone in the population as long as you have had your second dose more than six months ago. 

Will we require more than one booster? 

We really do not know yet. Watching and learning how things evolve both here and in other countries will tell us. There is a possibility that older people and those with weakened immune systems may require more boosters in the future but time will tell. There is a possibility that an annual flu and COVID vaccine could be given at the same time and provide the necessary protection against both diseases. Certainly this is attractive logistically!

If you are unsure when you had your second dose, check your immunisation certificate as it has the date of your second dose on it. Otherwise you can check your immunisation history online, or on the Australian Immunisation Register, or on myGov. And we have records of course at the Medical Centre. 

In other news, so far the expected surge in local cases has not occurred to the extent feared. At time of writing there were 18 cases in South Gippsland and just under 800 in Gippsland. Traralgon Hospital had 6 COVID inpatients and 4 in ICU. We do expect this to change, however, in the coming weeks-months. 

The next big topic will be immunisation of children under 12 yo. That may have to wait for the next article!

Dr Phil Worboys