aThe definition of an acceptable primary course includes mixed schedules of these vaccines, as well as TGA-recognised vaccines
Find out more about vaccines and COVID-19.
In Australia, there are three vaccines with provisional approval for use as a booster dose:3
- COMIRNATY (tozinameran) – Pfizer Australia (for people aged 12 years and older)
- SPIKEVAX (elasomeran) – Moderna Australia (for people aged 18 years and older)
- VAXZEVRIA – AstraZeneca (for people aged 18 years and older)
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends booster doses for all Australians aged 16 years or older. This will help keep immunity to the virus at high levels1 and help keep people protected as new strains of the COVID-19 virus emerge.
ATAGI has reviewed evidence on the benefits and risks of a booster dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents in Australia aged 12-15 years. Current data suggest that COVID-related serious illness is very rare in adolescents aged 12-15, particularly after completion of a primary series of COVID-19 vaccination.4
At this time, ATAGI does not recommend that adolescents aged 12-15 years need to receive a booster dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to review international evidence on efficacy of a booster in this age group.4
The messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are the ATAGI preferred vaccines for booster doses, noting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the only registered vaccine for use in people aged 16 to 17 years. It doesn't matter which vaccine you got for your primary course.1,5 The mRNA vaccines appear to work better as a booster dose compared with other COVID-19 vaccines. A study has shown they give the highest boost in antibodies compared with AstraZeneca, when given as a booster dose.1,6
VAXZEVRIA (AstraZeneca) can be given as a booster dose if someone is unable to receive one of the mRNA vaccines. The only scenario in which ATAGI actively recommends a booster dose using AstraZeneca is for people who can’t receive an mRNA vaccine, for example people with allergic reactions or myocarditis.1 Myocarditis is a disease that causes the heart muscle to become inflamed.7 Myocarditis and pericarditis are known reactions in a small number of people who receive mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.1
Information about the safety and immune response of NUVAXOVID (Novavax) as a booster dose is limited. Although not registered for this use, it can be given as a booster dose for people aged 18 years and older if no other COVID-19 vaccine is suitable.1
Find out more about booster doses for COVID-19 vaccines from the Australian Government Department of Health.
Staying up to date
It is important to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination. Booster doses are not mandatory but are highly recommended to ensure you have the highest protection you can get. Your digital vaccination certificate is updated when you receive each dose of vaccine. This includes your booster dose.8
If you are 16 years of age or older, an up to date COVID-19 vaccination status requires:9
- completing a primary course, and
- getting a booster dose at least 3 months after the primary course, and before 6 months.
If you didn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose before 6 months, it is still safe and effective to get it at any time after 6 months. This will make you up to date.9 You should get the booster dose in the advised timeframe for your age or health status. If not, your status is overdue.8
What is the difference between a third dose and a booster dose?
ATAGI recommends a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary course if you are aged 5 years or older and severely immunocompromised. This will help boost your immune response.10
A booster dose is an extra dose of a vaccine. You receive it after the primary course, as protection against infection decreases over time.1
You can still receive a booster dose after getting your third dose. If you are 16 years of age or older with severe immunocompromise, you should get the booster dose 3 months after the third primary dose. This is in line with the timing for the general population.1