Omicron COVID-19 variant lab tests lead to booster change

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ATAGI said the severity of the Omicron strain was still unclear, but there was some evidence that advancing the boosters to five months from six after the second dose dramatically increases antibody levels and offers a earlier protection against the new variant.

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“ATAGI will continue to review emerging evidence on the optimal interval between the primary vaccine and the COVID-19 booster vaccine and will provide updated guidance in the future as needed,” the group said.

By the end of December, 4.1 million Australians will be eligible for boosters, one month earlier than originally planned.

Mr Hunt said Australia has the vaccine supplies to provide anyone in need with a booster. The country has so far received 7.2 million doses of Moderna and around 40 million doses of Pfizer. Australia has ordered 15 million variant-specific doses of Moderna’s vaccine for 2022 and 60 million Pfizer doses.

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Professor Murphy said the side effects from the booster options, the two mRNA vaccines, were similar to the side effects people experience from their primary vaccinations – mainly arm pain or fever.

“Overall, the evidence suggests that the side effects following a booster are actually lower than the side effects following the second dose,” he said.

People can get either booster, regardless of what vaccine they originally had. Although AstraZeneca is not officially approved as a booster, people who have had adverse reactions to the mRNA vaccine may have it as a third dose instead, Professor Murphy said.

When asked if one booster is better than another, Mr Hunt replied that they were both “universal boosters”.

“If you’ve had AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, you can have Moderna or Pfizer as a booster,” he said, adding that there were 9,000 places across the country to get that third dose.

“If you need your booster, whether it’s Moderna, whether it’s Pfizer, there’s an opportunity everywhere.”

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