Headwinds to booster uptake?

As ATAGI approves the Pfizer vaccine booster for 16 and 17-year-olds, the government released new data showing booster coverage in states across the country. This new data shows a significant number of people across all age groups and states have been eligible for their booster, but are yet to receive it for some reason.

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Low uptake in certain age groups

Booster coverage is much lower among people under 40, where less than 30% of people have had their booster shot. This falls to as low as 15% for people in their early 20s.

The reasons for what might be perceived as a low take-up to this point in time are potentially multi-faceted.  

Obviously, 16 to 17-year-olds have only just become eligible for a booster dose.

The continuing reduction in the period between the second dose and booster shot has also increased the number of people who have not yet received the booster.

In younger cohorts 18 years and older, many did not receive their second dose until much later than older segments of the population, due to a combination of decisions by health authorities last year. Although it seems like another lifetime ago, adults between 18 and 40 years of age became eligible only on 8 June 2021.  In addition, Pfizer’s supply was not at its fullest extent of the period following June 2021, which may have led to some reticence in obtaining first and second vaccinations.

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Omicron’s impact on booster uptake

Another big cause for the slow booster rollout is the Omicron wave of infections. It has delayed booster doses for many as people are required to wait 4 to 6 weeks after recovering to receive their shot. 

The Omicron wave has disproportionately affected younger people. 20 and 30 year-olds have consistently been most likely to test positive on a PCR.

“I Just Had Covid. Do I Need a Booster?”

The question a lot of people seem to be asking these days is that If they have had COVID, do they still need to receive a booster shot? Is their immunity not at a sufficient level? 

Most subject matter experts will agree that vaccines can offer a more reliable and effective immune boost than a natural infection can.

A New York Times article published in early February featured a quote by Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, that stated “When you get infected with the coronavirus, your immune system mounts a series of responses that bulk up the body’s defenses against future infections. One of the best ways scientists know how to measure that response is to look at how many antibodies you’ve produced. In general, people who’ve been infected with the coronavirus tend to have lower levels of antibodies than those who’ve been vaccinated.”

“Vaccines provide a tailored set of instructions for the immune system to use in the absence of any distractions, such as an active infection, said Paul Thomas, an immunologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. And most people who get vaccinated develop a strong and predictable antibody response. A booster shot reminds the body to bump up its defenses – even faster than the first or second shot – in a matter of days.” 

Australians will need booster shot to be considered ‘up to date’

Australians will soon require a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to be considered “up to date” with their immunisation as the country shifts away from using the term “fully vaccinated”.

ATAGI released a statement earlier this week that defined what classified as “up-to-date” for the COVID-19 vaccines from two doses to three. The medical board updated their recommendation after estimates indicated “lower initial vaccine effectiveness” against the Omicron variant with just two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine.

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