Why the vast majority of Australians WON’T need a second Covid booster shot before winter
- New data shows second Covid booster only offers small infection protection
- However the booster will provide vital extra protection for people aged over 65
- Experts recommend the booster only to the elderly and immunocompromised
- But that could change before the end of the year as Covid immunity wanes
Healthy Australians under 65 will not need to get a second Covid booster before winter but may have to get one by Christmas, virus experts predict.
Latest studies out of Israel, where much of the population has two boosters, found a fourth dose restored waning antibodies from the third shot.
However, it only provided a modest increase in immunity against Covid infection with the main benefit being protecting against severe illness.
Eligibility for a fourth vaccine dose is being considered by nations worldwide with the US drug regulator only approving the second booster shot for people aged over 50 last month.
New data from infectious disease experts show a fourth Covid vaccine only offers a small and fleeting increase in protection against Covid for people under 65
Australia so far recommended the fourth dose to people over 16 who are severely immunocompromised, Australians over 65, indigenous Australians over 50, and residents in aged or disability care facilities.
However, former co-chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and infectious disease physician Professor Allen Cheng said that was unlikely to be expended any time soon.
Data from recent testing showed mixed results with some indicating the effects of a second booster shot fade quickly while others showed it offered vital extra protection to the elderly.
Dr Cheng recommended people over 65 should receive the booster but said it was unlikely the fourth dose would be of much use to anyone else yet.
‘For everyone else, what the evidence suggests so far is that giving another dose in the younger people protects them a little bit more, but that effect is probably quite short term,’ he told The Age.
Dr Cheng believed about 30 per cent of Australians have been infected with Covid since the beginning of the pandemic and those who received their third shot between December and January would be protected this winter.
Former co-chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and infectious disease physician Professor Allen Cheng recommended people over 65 receive the booster
However, a second booster could be rolled out to all Australians by the end of the year as immunity wanes further.
Australian infectious diseases expert Professor Paul Griffin said a fourth dose would likely be recommended if a new Covid variant emerged or a massive increase in cases again depleted medical supplies.
‘At the moment the fourth dose is being recommended for those highest risk groups for very good reason because of their higher risk of severe disease, but also their ability to not respond as strongly to the vaccine so far,’ he said.
‘But for most of the population, those things don’t hold true and they’re still benefiting from very good protection from a third dose.’
Associate Professor James Trauer, who leads the epidemiological modelling team at Monash University, said a fourth dose, if offered, should not be mandatory.
‘At some point with the vaccine mandates we’ve really got to say that it’s like three doses is enough to be considered fully vaccinated,’ he said.