New COVID variant lands in Australia, so do you need to get a booster?

The word on the street is that there’s a new COVID-19 variant in town.

BA.2.86, informally known as Pirola, has landed on our shores after being detected across the United Kingdom.

The federal government has maintained its vaccination advice to stay up-to-date with boosters.

Here’s what you need to know before booking for one.

Who can get a booster?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated the eligibility criteria for a booster.

You can get a booster if you last had a COVID-19 infection or vaccine dose six months ago, or longer.

However, the recommendation only applies to people in the following groups:

  • All adults aged 65 years and over
  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years who have medical comorbidities that increase the risk of severe COVID-19
  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years living with a disability, with significant or complex health needs

ATAGI has also broadened its advice on boosters for people outside of the groups above.

If that’s you, first you need to speak to your immunisation provider about the associated risks and benefits.

You should consider getting a vaccine if you fall within the following groups:

  • All adults aged 18 to 64 years without risk factors for severe COVID-19
  • Children and adolescents aged five to 17 years who have medical comorbidities that increase risk of severe COVID-19
  • Children and adolescents aged five to 17 years living with a disability, with significant or complex health needs

When should I get a booster?

If your last COVID-19 vaccine or infection was at least six months ago, you will be eligible for a booster.

This is regardless of the number of doses you have received altogether.

Which vaccine should I get?

Bivalent COVID-19 vaccines offer more protection against the different variants of the virus because they are designed to be targeted.

They are preferred over their original versions for people over the age of 12. Here are the different types available in Australia for the age group:

  • Moderna Bivalent BA.4.5
  • Pfizer Bivalent BA.4.5
  • Novavax

The Pfizer Bivalent BA.1 vaccine is also available but restricted to adults over the age of 18.

It is important to note that not all clinics will have all these vaccines on offer.

Where can I get a booster?

You can find a COVID-19 vaccine clinic near you here. 

Using this government service, you will be required to fill out a quick questionnaire prior to being shown options. 

Based on the information you provide, the service will also:

  • Confirm if you are eligible for a booster
  • State the number of primary doses recommended for your age group
  • List the vaccine options available to you
  • Provide a list of locations near you that offer your preferred vaccine choice

Do I have to pay for a vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are still free for everyone living in Australia.

This means you can still get a vaccine even if you are on a visa and do not have Medicare.

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