Big news for Covid booster shots

The booster shot is expected to be delivered to Australians aged over 18 at least six months after the “completion of a Covid-19 vaccine primary series”, no matter which vaccine was originally received. While the TGA noted that there was limited data on the efficacy of a Pfizer booster shot after initially receiving AstraZeneca, experts feel confident that “mix and match” will be beneficial. The rollout of the booster program is expected to begin “no later than” November 8 and will make Australia one of the most “highly vaccinated countries in the world”. Australians will remain fully vaccinated after their first two doses, but the onus is on them to keep up to date with their booster shots. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Today show that national cabinet would meet next week to further discuss the booster shot program. “We have been working steadfastly on this now for some time,” Mr Morrison said. “We will be starting with those in aged care facilities like we did with the vaccine.“We will be looking at (how) … the states will be keeping a fair bit of their infrastructure in place to deliver that. “We will obviously be leaning heavily on the primary health network, on pharmacists and GPs who have done the heavy lifting on getting these vaccination rates which … are higher than the UK.”Health Minister Greg Hunt said the booster program would make Australia not only one of the most highly, and most recently, vaccinated countries in the world but also one of the first to receive a whole-of-population program. The TGA’s John Skerritt said while the first two doses of vaccine “significantly reduced” the chance of becoming seriously ill, the booster would decrease the chance of mild Covid. Mr Hunt encouraged “every Australian” to get a booster shot when it was their time. “We want to encourage every Australian that is eligible to continue to come forward and complete their primary course and when they are due six months plus to come forward for their boosters,” Mr Hunt said. As a result of the booster program, Pfizer will be made available to pharmacies, and GPs will be able to administer Moderna. Earlier this year, the government secured 60 million doses of Pfizer for 2022 and 25 million doses for 2023, which would enable booster coverage throughout the year. Mr Morrison said in July “every Australian would have access to a booster shot if it is needed”. In a statement on Wednesday, the TGA said the recommendation of booster shots comes off the back of advice that a third dose should be given to “severely immunocompromised people” aged 12 or older, at least 28 days after their second dose. “TGA provisionally approved the booster dose following careful evaluation of the available data supporting safety and efficacy,” the TGA said. “Emergency authorisation or regulatory approval of the booster dose has also been granted in the United States, Europe and United Kingdom. “The TGA continues to work very closely with international regulators to harmonise regulatory approaches, share information and, where it speeds up evaluation, collaboratively review Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.”The announcement comes as the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has recommended approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11. Data from Pfizer-BioNTech indicates the vaccine is 90.7 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic illness among children and the benefits of vaccination clearly outweigh any risks. When asked when Australia would follow suit, Professor Skerritt said Pfizer had yet to submit a full application. “It’s not a legally binding application yet. This is quite normal,” he said. “Companies test the waters with the FDA before they even go to Europe, never mind Australia. “(We expect) the full application in the coming weeks … We also have to remember that the FDA hasn’t approved it yet.”

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