Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – COVID-19 vaccine boosters, vaccine passports, and dosage for kids

Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer answers the top 3 questions you’ve been asking on our socials.

7:26

Hello, welcome to today's Top 3. Today, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone working in community pharmacy right across Australia involved in our national COVID-19 vaccine program. At the moment, through thousands of community pharmacies across the country people are receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine and from later in this month community pharmacies will also start to be able to offer the Moderna vaccine, a new mRNA vaccine, which is currently going through the final phases before it's released after use with the Australian population. So a big thank you to everyone involved in pharmacy and involved in our vaccine rollout and to everybody involved in the national vaccine program.

Your first question for this week is a question about boosters. Will the need for a booster shot vary by vaccine type and will there be different reactions that we need to look out for?

So there's a lot of discussion at the moment in the media and on social media about whether or not we're going to require boosters to the COVID-19 vaccines in order to continue to have high levels of protection. What we know with the vaccines that we have available at the moment, the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine and very soon the Moderna vaccine, is that two doses of either of these vaccines provides very strong protection against people becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19 and the risk of dying from COVID-19. But research around the world and also the experience in some countries, which commenced their vaccine rollout earlier than Australia did, shows that there may be some people who lose some of their immunity over time. This is particularly a challenge for people who are immune compromised, people who may not have generated a strong immune response to the initial two doses of the vaccine, and it may be that these people require a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to get stronger protection. We're also looking to see whether people who were vaccinated eight months ago are getting lower immunity to the point where they may need a booster and we're following again very closely what's happening overseas and also the research. The reason why we may need boosters is the reason why the Australian Government has decided to purchase advance orders of vaccines for next year, so that if we do find that we need boosters we'll have the vaccines available to provide to people in Australia. At the moment we don't know if we're going to have a different approach to boosters depending on which vaccine you received first time around, so we'll provide more information on that as we find out more over time. For the moment, the most important thing everyone can do is to get those first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to make sure you're protected against the risk of serious disease if you become infected with COVID-19 and also the more people we have vaccinated the less likely we are to have circulating COVID-19 in our community so we will be protecting those who are unable to be vaccinated, which of course includes, at the moment, children under the age of 12.  

Your second question is about vaccine passports and will we need vaccine passports for international travel or for use within Australia? 

So at the moment we are looking at COVID-19 digital certificates and these are available to anyone who has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia. You can download your digital certificate from your My Health Record or from the Medicare Express app, which is available on smartphones, and you can put the digital certificate into your wallet on your smartphone so it's readily accessible. We're also looking at whether we will introduce international travel certificates for people who are traveling out of Australia and eventually, of course, for people who are traveling back into Australia, providing evidence that people have been vaccinated and fully protected against COVID-19. So again, this is an area which is rapidly changing and how these certificates will be used is also currently being debated, whether we'll need certificates to move around Australia, to access individual venues or events, or for other purposes is still being determined. So we'll let you know, again, more about digital certificates for proving your vaccination status as we get more information.

Your third question is will children aged 12 to 15 need two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or just one dose?

Now, at the moment, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine for children aged 12 years and above. And children, of course, have started receiving the Pfizer vaccine in large numbers across Australia since these announcements were made. At the moment, the recommendation from the Therapeutic Goods Administration and from ATAGI, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, is that children require two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine in order to be fully protected against COVID-19 and this of course is the same for adults and for older teenagers. The first dose of the vaccine provides a level of protection, the second dose of vaccine provides long-lasting protection against COVID-19, which is why two doses is so important. There has been some media about the United Kingdom looking at only a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 years and above. We're closely following the research into this but also looking to see what sort of an immune response our children will get after only a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Australia, the recommendation remains that children should receive two doses of a vaccine just like everybody else.

And that's our Top Three for today. Thank you for joining me.

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  1. Will the need for a booster shot vary by vaccine type and will there be different reactions that we need to look out for?
  2. There’s talk about vaccine passports for international travel and certificates for domestic - what is this and how will it impact me?
  3. Will kids aged 12-15 need two doses of the vaccine or just one? 
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