As of the date of publication, more than 90 per cent of Victorian's aged 12 years and over have received two doses of a vaccine – which is pretty bloody amazing. Thanks to our collective efforts, the state has been able to move towards 'Covid-normal' so we can enjoy all our favourite parts of living in Melbourne again. But in recent months, to reduce the threat of new variants such as the concerning Omicron strain, the WHO has recommended that a third 'booster' dose can provide even better protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death. And it just so happens that Australia is one of only a few countries in the world right now that is offering bootser shots to all of its residents aged 18 and over.
On December 9, premier Daniel Andrews revealed the state government's Omicron strategy after Victoria recorded its first case of the new variant. "We are not chasing an Omicron zero strategy," said the premier. "We’ll be guided by the growing body of international evidence about the transmissibility and infectivity of this new variant, but also the relatively positive signs that the disease is milder and certainly not more severe than the Delta variant."
Andrews also stated that there was presently no definitive data to suggest that current vaccinations would not work against Omicron. "There’s no evidence that vaccinations are compromised by this variant; in fact, quite the contrary in terms of early evidence."
That early evidence comes in the form of updates from Pfizer and BioNTech, who have been conducting studies into the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in neutralising the Omicron variant. Preliminary data indicated that a third dose of the vaccine increased the presence of neutralising antibodies by 25-fold, compared to just two doses. You can read the full press release here.
But if you're still unclear on why a third dose is now being recommended, here's an easy-to-follow breakdown of the essential need-to-knows.
What is the COVID-19 booster shot and how is it different to the other vaccines we've already received?
In Australia, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved as a booster shot by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). If you've already had Pfizer as your first two doses, your booster shot will be exactly the same as what you've already received.
What if I've had AstraZeneca or Moderna? Can I get the Pfizer booster shot?
It is safe to have a different booster shot to your two primary doses. However, if you can't have the Pfizer shot for medical reasons, you can have AstraZeneca as your booster instead.
Who is eligible for a booster shot?
Booster doses are currently available to everyone 18 years and over who have had both their primary doses of any COVID-19 vaccine. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is not currently recommending booster doses for people aged 12-17 or for those who have already had a third dose for medical reasons, such as people who are immunocompromised.
When and how can I get it?
You can book a booster dose if it has been five months or longer since your second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The date of your second jab can be found on your digital vaccination certificate. To book a booster dose, use the COVID-19 Clinic Finder – which also has information on getting help from a translator, booking for someone else or accessible vaccination clinics.