You have done your bit and followed the advice: got both jabs, saved the date for your booster, stayed home when unwell and avoided unnecessary gatherings indoors.
But then…Omicron came and the O-wave went rampant leaving few untouched so far.
Whether it’s you, a loved one or an acquaintance, you probably know of someone who got the virus while double-vaxxed.
But should recent infection affect our booster bookings?
Short answer, based on official advice, is not in a significant way.
But depending on your demographics and how you experienced the disease, your third vaccination appointment could wait a bit more than initially planned.
The booster rationale
In its most recent statement focusing on booster doses, dated 22 December, the World Health Organisation summarises evidence indicating “a minimal to modest reduction of vaccine protection against severe disease over the 6 months after the primary series”.
Booster shots should form for this reason, the UN body states, part of optimising prevention for severe disease, noting however its endorsement for “targeted use” with the aim of protecting high-risk populations.
The statement was made clear after WHO’s Director-General’s warning that “blanket COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes could prolong the pandemic rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate.”
But this is a different story altogether.
What happens in Australia?
Australia is one of several jurisdictions where booster vaccination has been authorised for the general population.
And Omicron sparked renewed calls to speed-up the programme.
In December, eligibility criteria for boosters were brought forward by the Australian Technical Advisory Group by one month, meaning the general population could book for a third vaccine dose five months after completing their “primary series” of vaccinations.
Since 4 January the timeframe has been reduced to four months since completion of primary vaccination and by end of January it is expected Australians will be able to book their booster shot appointment already after three months have lapsed from their last jab.
Bear in mind, immunocompromised persons fall in different timeframes with ATAGI recommending a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine following the standard 2 dose schedule and receiving their booster (i.e. 4th dose) at 4 months, in line with the timing for the general population.
So, when should I have my booster shot?
1) I am double-vaxxed and contracted COVID-19
As Dr Magdalena Simonis explains in a recent Neos Kosmos article, some immunity acquired following a COVID infection is expected to last up to 6 months.
This in turn reduces the risk of reinfection for a certain timeframe.
“You should have your third COVID vaccination whether it be with Pfizer or Moderna at 4-6 months after this infection,” Dr Simonis points out, as a rule of thumb, echoing the Department of Health guidelines.
Those who contracted the virus, “can defer vaccination for up to 6 months after onset of the SARS-CoV-2 infection” states the Australian official advice, or “can be vaccinated as soon as they have recovered from their acute illness”.
2) I have received an anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma
The ATAGI advice for this cohort is to defer future doses of COVID-19 vaccine for at least 90 days
3) I have had my first dose and contracted COVID-19
You should complete your primary vaccination series with a second dose and then proceed with a booster.
The above Health Department guidelines (on getting vaccinated as soon as you recover from acute illness or deferring vaccination for up to 6 months after the onset of the infection) applies to both second dose vaccination and booster vaccination.
4) I am immunocompromised
You are advised to receive your booster (i.e. 4th dose) four months after completing your primary vaccination series (three doses as per ATAGI recommendations).
5) I am under 18 years old
Booster doses are not yet recommended for people under 18 years of age.