All Australians over 12 are likely to be offered Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, and may be required to have them in order to retain a vaccine passport, with a decision to be made next week.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said aged-care residents will get their third doses in the second week of November.
After that the general population is likely to be offered a third dose ‘six months or more’ after their second dose, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said.
All Australians over 12 will are likely to be offered Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, pending approval from top scientists next week. Pictured: A vaccine queue in Sydney last month
Mr Hunt would not confirm whether or not Australians will need to prove they’ve had a third jab in order to travel internationally.
‘I will follow medical advice on that and I won’t speculate on passports. That is very much medical question with the science to flow over the coming months,’ he said.
It comes as Australia achieves the ‘key milestone’ of a 70 per cent double vaccination rate in over 16s.
Professor Kelly said he would wait for further scientific advice before deciding the timeframe between second and third doses.
‘All of the booster programs around the world have picked a time after the second dose of the vaccine, that has varied in some countries, so we will see what the advice is from ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation).’
Professor Kelly said priority groups in phases 1a and 1b of the vaccine rollout would be ‘first in line because they are now six or more months after the second dose.’
He said Israel’s booster shot program, which began in July, has shown that third doses are safe and effective in all age groups.
On October 8 Australia’s vaccine scientists recommended Covid vaccine booster shots for 500,000 severely immunocompromised Australians over 12.
They are being given a third shot between two and six months after their second dose.
The boosters are either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, even if their initial jabs were AstraZeneca.
Some scientists forecast people will need a Covid vaccine once a year as the virus continues to mutate – but Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he hoped three doses would give lifelong immunity.
‘A third dose is likely to be last dose that you have to do [in your life],’ he said earlier this month.
ATAGI said it does not recommend subsequent doses beyond the third dose at this time.
Many immunocompromised patients who fail to respond to third doses may not respond to further doses, it said.
The group said for immunocompromised patients a gap of two to six months after the second dose was preferable but this could be reduced to four weeks in exceptional circumstances such as anticipated intensification of immunosuppression and Covid-19 outbreaks.
‘People who have had a second dose more than six months ago should receive a third dose whenever feasible,’ it said.
‘An mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) is preferred to Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) for this third dose.’
Australians who have had two doses of Pfizer will get Pfizer for their booster. Those who had two doses of Moderna will get a third shot of Moderna.
Those who had two doses of AstraZeneca can be given either Pfizer or Moderna for their booster.
Israel was the first country to start rolling out booster shots on July 30. The US, UK and EU countries have followed.
Pictured: Dr Jamal Rifi administers the Pfizer vaccine at the Belmore Sports Ground vaccination hub in western Sydney