With anxiety building as states prepare to throw open their borders and learn to live with COVID, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced the news many have been waiting for – it has approved Pfizer booster doses of the vaccine for all adults over the age of 18.
While the final advice on the rollout of booster shots still needs to be ticked off by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the federal government has also provided a date when it expects the booster program to start.
Health minister Greg Hunt explained that subject to the ATAGI advice, the general population booster program will start no later than 8 November. Original priority groups, including people in aged care and disability care settings, will be offered the option to receive a booster first.
The provisional TGA approval means that all adults may receive a third dose of the vaccine at least six months after having received the second dose.
The initial vaccination course can be from any of the COVID-19 vaccines registered for use in Australia, although data on the use of the Pfizer vaccine as a booster with other COVID-19 vaccines is more limited.
The TGA advice suggests that anyone who has received one Pfizer jab should preferably receive a second Pfizer jab to complete the primary vaccination course and also stick with Pfizer for the third dose.
The TGA says it provisionally approved the booster dose following careful evaluation of the available data supporting its safety and efficacy.
The TGA’s decision was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines, an independent committee with scientific, clinical and consumer representation.
Mr Hunt explained that the medical advice was that people remained fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but that the commencement of booster doses would provide additional protection and peace of mind.
The government also said that Moderna will shortly apply to the TGA for registration of booster doses for their vaccine.
Mr Hunt said that with more than 151 million Pfizer, Novavax and Moderna vaccines already secured for supply into the future, Australia was well prepared to provide booster doses as approvals are provided.
Australians who are severely immunocompromised have been able to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to boost their protection against COVID-19 since 11 October.
In other COVID news, South Australia announced on Tuesday that it would ease border restrictions for double-vaccinated people from COVID states from 23 November, joining Queensland and Tasmania in opening borders in time for Christmas.
Western Australia remains the lone state keeping its borders closed. Premier Mark McGowan has not ruled out closing his state’s borders to jurisdictions that are planning to ease border restrictions in time for Christmas.
“We’ll monitor what occurs in South Australia and whether they get cases and how soon they do; that may influence what we do with South Australia,” Mr McGowan said.
“We are continuing with our vaccination program to get as many people vaccinated as we can, making sure that we get through the Christmas period and the Christmas holidays before such time as we open to NSW and Victoria and potentially get cases.
“So that we have high levels of vaccination, we don’t have to put in place restrictions over the Christmas holidays, and hopefully we can come through this whole experience pretty unscathed.”
When are you due to get your third vaccine dose? Do you think WA should open its borders to COVID states before Christmas? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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