While the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a distant memory, the virus hasn’t gone away.
And because the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the illness is still evolving, new vaccines are being developed to combat different strains.
A new COVID-19 booster will be available in March to protect against the latest strains of the virus.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the new COVID-19 booster and how it’s different from what went before.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that a new booster can be used on people aged 12 and over.
This booster, the Pfizer bivalent (protecting against two strains) BA.4/5 vaccine, has been devised to combat both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Bivalent vaccines like these are needed as viruses like SARS-CoV-2 evolve over time. This means they become more infectious and may overcome immunity people already have from vaccines or getting the virus previously.
Tests have shown that this new vaccine gives greater protection against Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 compared to the original COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer.
It also offers protection against other Omicron subvariants that are emerging. And bivalent vaccines have been found to reduce the need for hospital treatment and lower the risk of death from the disease.
How do I get the new vaccine?
From 20 February, all Australian adults who haven’t had COVID-19 or a booster during the past six months are now entitled to a new jab to help protect them against the disease.
Before this date, a fifth dose was only available to severely immunocompromised people.
ATAGI has urged people aged over 65 or who have disabilities or complex health needs to take up this offer.
While all COVID-19 vaccines will protect you, the new Pfizer bivalent BA.4/5 vaccine targets current strains.
The good news is that it will become available from 6 March.
So if you are eligible, why not book a COVID-19 booster? Use the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to locate a clinic near you.
If you have any questions about immunisation, you can get COVID-19 booster vaccine advice from your doctor.
What about children?
ATAGI recommends a 2023 booster to children aged 5-17 if:
- They have more than one health condition or disease (this is sometimes called “having comorbidities”)
- They have a disability that includes complex health needs
For children under 18, a 2023 booster is not recommended if they don’t have a higher risk of severe COVID-19.
What else do I need to know about the booster?
ATAGI is also saying that:
- Bivalent boosters like the Pfizer Original/Omicron BA.4/5 are preferred to other vaccines
- The COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu and other vaccines
- People should aim to get their 2023 booster before June
- Future advice on boosters will depend on factors like infection rates, new variants and how effective vaccines prove to be
How else can I prevent COVID-19?
Vaccination is considered one of the best ways to protect yourself against COVID-19. You can also:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitiser if you can’t access soap and water.
- Wear a face mask when you’re in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.
- Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough.
- If you have symptoms like a temperature, cough, sore throat or runny nose, get a COVID-19 test. If it’s positive, stay home until you get a negative result, as long as the symptoms remain mild.
How should I treat COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild, you can treat them at home. For example, if you have a fever, drink plenty of clear fluids and use cooling products for relief.
If you are worried about your symptoms, call your GP.
And if you have severe symptoms, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Tell the call handler that you have tested positive for COVID-19. Severe symptoms include:
- Chest pain or a feeling of pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Cold and clammy skin
Keeping Australia healthy — together!
Viruses like the one that causes COVID-19 are evolving all the time. That’s why new vaccines are being rolled out.
It makes sense to get a 2023 booster if you’re eligible. It’s one of the best ways to prevent disease.
You can also invest in wellbeing products like thermometers and face masks, which you’ll find in our online shop.
Our mission is to offer you what you need to take a proactive role in your wellbeing — so why not make that booster appointment and stock up on our products today? Let’s keep Australia healthy — together!