Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – Booster dose, extra vaccine dose, vaccine effectiveness and regularly

Dr Steph Davis, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, answers the top 3 questions across our channels.

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Good morning everyone. My name is Steph Davis. I am a Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Government Department of Health. I am here today to do your top three questions. Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I am sitting here today. Here in Canberra that is the Ngunnawal people. I'd like to pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging. I would like to extend those respects to the traditional custodians of the land on which others are joining into this meeting today. Also, to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people who are watching this today.

My shout out today is to the whole community. You have done such an amazing job in coming forward, rolling up your sleeves, pulling down your shirts and getting your vaccines. It is going gangbusters, we are almost there. There is a few states who aren't quite as high up in the coverage rates as the rest of Australia. We really need you guys to come forward as well. I would just like to say thank you so much, to everybody who has had their vaccines. I would like to extend that thanks to all of the people who have been involved in the vaccine program. It is really an absolutely amazing job that everyone has done.

My first question today is, about boosters. In fact, all of my questions are about boosters, as they are obviously those are the big news in the vaccine world at the moment. The first question is, how will I know when I need to get my booster shot? The advice from ATAGI, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is that you should consider getting a booster shot if you have had your second shot six months or more ago. That is not that many people at that many people at the moment, but there will be more over the coming months. If you do not remember when you had your booster shot, if you had it with your GP you can check with them. For most of us, the easiest way is to look on your COVID-19 vaccine certificate. Now, if you are a little bit technological challenged and you need a little bit of help knowing how to download that COVID-19 vaccination certificate, look on www.health.gov.au. You will find some information on how to download that certificate.

My second question today is also about boosters. Am I considered fully vaccinated if I have only had two doses? Can I still do stuff like go to the pub? If being full vaccinated is still a requirement to visit my elderly relatives in aged care for example. The good news is yes, yes, you can. At the moment, two doses is considered fully vaccinated. Even if that second dose was a little bit more than six months ago. The reason for that is because we think the two doses still gives you really good protection against severe disease. Over the coming months as more evidence emerges, it may be that recommendation will change, and it may be that boosters will be recommended for all of us more strongly. At the moment the booster is considered that, it's considered a boost to your immune system, and you are still considered fully vaccinated with two doses.

My final question today is, about boosters. This one is, are we going to need to get boosters every year? Are we going to need to get them more often, or less frequently? Is it going to turn into a shot like the flu vaccine? Where we get one every year. The answer for that one at the moment is, we really just don't know. We really need to see what happens moving forward. We don't have enough evidence yet. Partially, well mainly because the vaccine has not been around that long yet, of knowing how immunity lasts, and therefore how long it will be between when we need to give a boost to our immune systems again. The other thing we do not know is how the virus is going to change overtime, and whether new variants are going to emerge that will need a change or a tweak to the vaccine so we would need to get another shot for that reason.

That is my top three questions for today. Thank you very much for joining in, thank you again to the whole of the community who have done such an amazing job in getting your vaccines. Thank you so much to Linda who has done a fantastic job with interpreting. We will see you all again soon.

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  1. How will I know when I need to get a booster dose?
  2. Am I still considered ‘fully vaccinated’ with only two doses and can I still (travel overseas, travel interstate, go to an aged care home, go to the pub) if I don’t get a booster?
  3. How long will we need to keep getting booster doses? Will it become regular like the flu vaccine?
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