With more than three-quarters of adults in the United Kingdom fully vaccinated, health officials are looking to the future.
The UK’s vaccine booster scheme is expected to kick off this month, with those “most vulnerable” first in line for the jab.
Designed to extend the protection offered by vaccines, and to help combat contagious variants, a number of nations with high vaccination rates are forging ahead with plans to roll out a third shot.
So when is Australia likely to follow suit? Who would be first in line for a booster? And does it matter what brand of vaccine you get?LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic
When do I need a booster?
The short answer is: we’re not entirely sure yet — and there doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus.
Overseas, the time frames vary.
In Israel, for example, fully vaccinated residents are eligible to receive a booster shot at least five months after their second jab.
That’s shorter than the eight-month interval flagged by US health officials, who are this month expected to begin offering boosters to residents who have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
So who would get it first?
While a final decision around the use of booster shots in Australia could still be months away, any program would likely follow similar criteria to the national vaccine rollout, with those who are immunosuppressed or otherwise at high risk prioritised.
But it’s not yet clear when a third dose could become available, or how frequently booster shots would be required.
Experts have warned Australians shouldn’t expect a third dose until everyone has had at least one, while the Health Department notes “it is not yet known how long the COVID-19 vaccine protection will last”.
“Clinical trials are currently happening to find out if we will need booster doses on an annual or longer basis,” the department said.
“To be fully vaccinated in the initial vaccine rollout, a person must have two doses of the same vaccine, given at the appropriate dosing schedule.”
What brand of vaccine could I receive?
As it stands, the federal government has secured supplies of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for booster shots.
Eighty-five million doses of Pfizer will be set aside for a third jab (and are due to arrive in the country from next year), while the majority of doses from the recently approved Moderna vaccine are expected to be used as boosters.
Speaking last month, AstraZeneca’s Australian/NZ president Liz Chatwin told RN Breakfast the company was also testing a variation to its vaccine.
“And it will be available later this year if it’s going to be needed as a booster shot,” she said.
“We’re working on a different version of the vaccine, if it’s required.”
Do I need to stick with the same brand?
While the Moderna vaccine is expected to be rolled out nationwide, the majority of doses will be used as boosters for those who have received AstraZeneca or Pfizer.
Experts have also pointed to international data, which suggests giving a dose of a different type of vaccine may provide more protection.
But that’s not to say you can’t stick with the same brand (should it become available).
One Oxford study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, found that a third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine generated a “strong boost to the immune response”, while Israeli researchers found the Pfizer booster also cut the risk of infection.