COVID-19 booster shots for the severely immunocompromised

Monday, 11 October, 2021

COVID-19 booster shots for the severely immunocompromised

As of today (11 October), Australians who are severely immunocompromised will be offered the option to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to boost their protection against COVID-19 to the highest level.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), along with other leading vaccination and health experts, recently recommended a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary course in individuals who are severely immunocompromised, in order to address the risk of suboptimal or non-response to the standard two-dose schedule. The third dose is intended to maximise the level of immune response to as close as possible to the general population.

The recommendation applies to all individuals aged 12 years and over with certain conditions or on therapies leading to severe (not mild or moderate) immunocompromise, who may have a decreased immune response to a COVID-19 vaccination and be more at risk from severe COVID-19. This includes people who are being actively treated for cancer or organ failure, or with a range of immunosuppressive or biologic therapies. It is expected to apply to up to 500,000 Australians.

The recommended interval for the third dose is two to six months after the second dose of vaccine. ATAGI’s advice is that an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) is the preferred option for a third dose, though AstraZeneca can be used for individuals who have received AstraZeneca for their first two doses if there are no contraindications or precautions for use, or if a significant adverse reaction has occurred after a previous mRNA vaccine dose.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the Australian Government expects to receive advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and ATAGI within the coming weeks about the administration of booster doses for the general population. He said Australia is well prepared to provide general booster doses if they are recommended by the medical experts, having secured over 151 million vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax into the future.

In the meantime, Hunt said, “If you or someone in your family are severely immunocompromised, we encourage you to reach out to your GP or specialist to discuss whether an additional dose is required.”

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