What You Need To Know About The New Booster Shot Advice, And When To Get It After COVID

Had COVID recently? This is when you should be sorting out your booster.

booster shot explained

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The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has officially scrapped the idea of being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 and is now advising based on the idea of being “up-to-date” with vaccinations, meaning that you’ll need a booster shot to be in line with ATAGI advice.

But it’s not quite that simple, so let’s unpack it.

What Is ATAGI’s Actual Advice?

As per ATAGI’s most recent advice, everyone over the age of 16 is now being encouraged to get a booster dose in order to maintain their “up-to-date” vaccination status.

It is recommended to get the booster any time after the three-month mark, but you have until six months post-second dose before you’re actually considered “overdue”.

ATAGI has also noted that the “up-to-date” advice shouldn’t come into practice until the end of March, so as to give people time to make arrangements before it starts impacting their work and personal life.

How Does The Advice Differ If You’ve Had COVID?

As per health advice, you can get the booster as soon as you have fully recovered from the virus, which is generally four to six weeks after you contracted COVID.

If you’ve had COVID recently, you can defer your booster shot for up to four months after your infection (regardless of how long after your second dose you contracted the virus). However, you’re still encouraged to follow ATAGI’s advice and it really comes down to if you want to defer — there’s no advice saying you need to, or should, delay for the full four months.

TL;DR: As long as you’ve recovered from COVID, you’re free to get the booster as soon as possible, but you can delay for up to four months if symptoms persist.

What If You’re Severely Immunocompromised?

Severely immunocompromised Australians were advised to get a third dose as part of their initial vaccination. This is not the booster shot. A fourth booster shot is recommended, but is not required by ATAGI to be considered “up-to-date.”

What Does The Government Say?

In Thursday’s national cabinet meeting, the federal government officially endorsed ATAGI’s advice for Australians, noting that it does not apply to international travellers. This means you will only need two doses to be considered fully vaccinated for visa purposes.

“A person is ‘up-to-date’ if they have completed all the doses recommended for their age and individual health needs,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday. “People under 16 years of age will continue to be considered ‘up-to-date’ after completing their primary course of vaccination, while severely immunocompromised people aged five years and older [will] require a third primary dose to remain up-to-date.”

Despite endorsing the advice, the national cabinet agreed not to mandate booster shots nationally (except for aged care workers) — as it did with the initial advice to be “fully vaccinated.”

Will It Be Mandated At A State Level?

South Australia and Victoria have already indicated they will make the booster shot mandatory for specific industries — likely healthcare and other high-risk essential areas.

SA Premier Stephen Marshall noted that the government will “take all of that [ATAGI’s advice] into account” before changing the laws around vaccination status, but gave no indication of how it could impact those in lower risk industries.

Additionally, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has asserted that the booster shot may become mandatory to visit certain venues. This means you may eventually need a booster shot if you want to sink beers at the pub, but nothing has been officially announced yet. On Friday, the Victorian Health Minister wouldn’t confirm if the booster would be mandated, so it’s unclear if and when this will happen.

As for the rest of the states, their leaders are yet to give us any indication on how they will interpret the ATAGI advice moving forward.