COVID-19 vaccine: Boosters
Why get a booster?
While two doses are likely to provide a good degree of protection against severe disease from Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants for some time, a booster dose is likely to offer greater protection.
Current evidence shows your protection against infection after the primary vaccination course decreases over time. Giving a ‘top up’ vaccine after a primary course helps boost your immunity against COVID-19.
Anyone aged 18 or older, who has had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine at least 3 months ago, is urged to get their free booster vaccine to help protect themselves, their whānau, and the wider community
Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick from COVID-19 and ending up in hospital.
Ages 12 to 17 are not eligible for a booster.
Pfizer has recently applied to Medsafe to reduce the age range for Pfizer boosters. This is being assessed as a priority and a decision is expected in April.
In the meantime, you can discuss specific clinical circumstances with your GP or healthcare provider.
As with all medicines, vaccines can be used outside of Medsafe approval (this is called ‘off label’) if they are prescribed by an authorised prescriber.
If you’ve had COVID-19 but you still need a booster it’s recommended you have this 3 months after recovery.
Hear from expertsTranscript
The Pfizer vaccine provides really good protection from getting really unwell with COVID-19 or dying from it.
It was really important to be fully vaccinated before, and when, we had our Delta outbreak, but what we know now is that after a few months, your protection against the COVID-19 virus starts to drop away, and it’s particularly important that you have the booster dose to protect you against this new Omicron variant.
Two was good for Delta, but Omicron needs three.
And here’s the thing, we’ve got Omicron in the community now, and we need you to be boosted before it comes to your community. So as soon as you’re eligible – (that’s three months after your second dose), go out and get vaccinated straight away to protect you, to protect your whānau, and to protect your community.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield explains that with Omicron in the community, getting a COVID-19 booster is the best thing you can do to protect you and your whānau.Transcript
Why is a booster needed?
[Dr Lily] So I understand that some people are feeling frustrated that they've already had two vaccines and now we're asking you to also get the booster.
For omicron the booster is really important, because over time our immunity does wane, and so by having the booster it brings it back up again to give your body the best chance to be protected against Omicron.
How effective is the booster dose?
[Dr Siouxsie] The data is really clear from lots of countries overseas, that people who have had that third booster dose are more protected against Omicron than if they don't have it.
They're more protected from getting infection, they're more protected from hospitalisation, and they're more protected from dying from the disease.
Does it still take two weeks to become fully protected?
[Dr Api] It is probably going to be at your maximum after two weeks, but because you've already got some immunity there from your first two doses, the booster shot works much faster at pushing your immunity up.
Is it likely we will need more doses in the future?
[Dr Api] Researchers are continuing to look at the COVID-19 virus, but unfortunately it's like gazing into a crystal ball.
Viruses do mutate. And so if it becomes obvious that we will need another booster shot, the researchers will find that out for us, make sure they test the vaccines to check for its safety, before they recommend it.
How is Omicron different to Delta?
[Dr Siouxsie] The reason Omicron appears mild is because doctors have got a lot better at treating COVID-19.
We now have antivirals available and we have a lot of people who've either around the world been infected before, so have some immunity, or have been vaccinated.
This is not a disease that you want to get we should be trying to avoid it.
We definitely see protection if you've had that third dose.
So it's really really important that people get it.
What we also know is that because this variant is so infectious, even if there are less hospitalisations, there are still relatively more - and that's led to an overwhelming of healthcare systems overseas.
Is the booster the same as the previous doses?
[Dr Anthony] So, it's the same dose, it's 30 micrograms, same volume.
For those of us that get it again it'll look pretty much the same as what you remember last time.
Really importantly though, it doesn't give you any more side effects than your dose two.
I know a lot of people have said, oh, am I gonna feel more side effects after a third dose?
That gap is quite important in terms of reducing your side effects.
Why is the booster now given three months after the second dose?
[Dr Anthony] We need to remember that that dose interval that went from four months to three months has been studied to make sure that it gives you good protection.
So once we see the levels starting to drop down, If we can get that booster in there as soon as possible, it lifts your protection back up again.
And that's why we've seen that interval for the booster dose come back to three months.
Dr Lily Fraser, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Dr Api Talemaitoga, and Dr Anthony Jordan answer your questions about the COVID-19 booster.
How to get a booster
If you completed your primary COVID-19 vaccination course at least 3 months ago, and you're aged 18 or over, you are eligible for a booster. For most people a primary course is two doses.
You can check when your last vaccination was by logging into My Covid Record or checking your purple COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card if you have one.The Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine being used in New Zealand for booster doses, even if you had a different COVID-19 vaccine for earlier doses.
You can get a booster dose the same way you got your previous COVID-19 vaccinations – including walk-in sites and drive-throughs. Check Healthpoint for available walk-in sites.
If it's been less than 3 months since your second dose you can still book ahead to ensure you get the date and time you prefer.
You can book an appointment for a booster dose through Book My Vaccine or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week). We'll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpretation services are available if you need them.
The Pfizer booster – everything you need to know (PDF, 668 KB)
AstraZeneca boosters are available 3 months after you finished your primary course. You can get a prescription at the vaccinating AstraZeneca clinic or prior to your appointment with your preferred GP. Visits to GPs for a prescription for an AstraZeneca booster are free.
If you were vaccinated overseas, you can get a booster 3 months after you completed your primary course. The Pfizer vaccine is the recommended booster dose regardless of what vaccine was used for earlier doses.
People eligible for a third primary dose can currently access a booster dose 3 months after receiving their third primary dose.
Information for severely immunocompromised people
You don't need to have a booster dose to be ‘fully vaccinated’ to get a My Vaccine Pass or an International Travel Vaccination Certificate.
However, if you do get a booster dose, it will be added to My Covid Record, and you can create another pass or International Travel Vaccination Certificate if you want to.
My Covid Record
Side effects of boosters
You may experience some side effects, similar to those you might’ve had after the first or second dose, such as muscle aches, pain at the injection site or headaches.
For most people these are mild effects. They are a sign your body’s immune system is learning to fight the virus. They don’t last long and for many people do not impact on day-to-day activities.
Rare side effects of the Pfizer vaccine
If you have a booster, you may be invited by text to let us know about any side effects experienced – this is called a ‘Post Vaccine Symptom Check’.
The text invite will come from the Ministry of Health and you’ll be asked to reply ‘YES’, ‘NO’, or ‘STOP’. All replies are free of charge.
If you want to take part you’ll be sent a link to an online web form.