Australia’s chief medical officer has indicated a third coronavirus jab could offer long-term protection rather than annual injections.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is expected to release advice about booster shots for the general population before the end of the month.
While there has been suggestions COVID vaccines could be needed each year, similar to the flu, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly believes that may not be necessary.
“At this stage, it looks likely a third dose is all we know about,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“Remember that we’re only less than a year into this endeavour right across the world so at the moment it appears a third dose will be enough but we’ll just need to see.”
Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, which are available in Australia, require two doses but some countries are offering a third jab to boost protection.
Professor Kelly said Pfizer and Moderna – both mRNA vaccines – would be preferred in a potential booster program but AstraZeneca may also be used in some cases.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had secured 151 million doses to enable a booster program.
Up to 500,000 people with severely compromised immune systems will be able to access a third shot from Monday.
A Pfizer jab is preferred for people two to six months after their second dose with a minimum interval of four weeks in exceptional circumstances.
Severely immunocompromised people who received their second dose more than six months ago should get another injection as soon as possible.
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler wants to know when frontline healthcare workers and older Australians will be eligible for booster shots.
“We’ve seen evidence that the immunity from those vaccines does start to wane after several months,” he told reporters in Adelaide.
“Are we going to see, yet again, something that’s too little, too late on booster shots?”
Australia has now vaccinated more than 60 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 81.5 per cent have receive at least one dose.
The health minister said the latest increase took Australia past the United States, Israel and the European Union on first-dose coverage.
Victoria reported 1838 new COVID cases on Friday, the highest single-day total of any state or territory since the pandemic began.
There were five more deaths across the state and 11 in NSW, which recorded 646 new local cases.
Canberra detected 40 more infections.