After two years of uncertainty, the pandemic is not far behind us. With the new Omicron variants BA4 and BA5 wreaking havoc—hospital admissions in Victoria have soared by nearly 80 per cent—it is feared that the next two months will be a high-risk period for catching COVID, according to the Australian Medical Association.
In the light of this, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended that people aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose, while people aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot. It is a recommendation accepted by the government and one that came into effect from 11 July.
The choices people make matter more than ever now. Or so it seems.
Some members of the community in Melbourne—30-year-olds and above—whom The Indian Sun spoke to had this to say on the latest announcement regarding booster shots.
Joseph Rexy, 46, who works from home for an online business, says he is weighing the pros and cons. “There is nothing wrong in waiting it out. If a major variant appears, then I will probably get the booster shot. I feel I am not in the high-risk category as I don’t take public transport or go to office.”
Shalini*, 41, a finance consultant, is adamant about not getting the booster shot. “I didn’t believe in the vaccine from the start. I did get it though and after that my periods were irregular after the second jab and no ovulation,” she rues., adding, “I got Covid after the vaccination, I don’t think it is doing any good except for the fact that it is letting me travel and go back to work.”
Reema Maisnam, 34, who works in the fashion industry, says she is also in no mood to take the booster shot. Her reason. “To me, it seems everyone has been getting COVID-19 and quite common as the flu, so I don’t want to take it.”
Lalita*, 46, is still unsure. “Depends on how the situation evolves,” she says.
However, Jayshree*, 47, a mental health counsellor, who has also undergone hysterectomy, is all for it. “I will be taking it to protect myself,” she says. “I may change to a mutant though and look like an ape,” she adds, with a laugh.
Like her, Sabina*, 48, admin assistant, is going for the booster once her asthma settles down.
Of course, these views do not reflect the general populace and one has the right to make a choice. However, in order to shift the equilibrium in our favour, the government and epidemiologists state getting the booster shot is a good idea and one that could ease the burden on the health system.
The government’s consistent health messaging is that increasing the uptake of fourth doses in the most at-risk population groups during this time is anticipated to play a limited, but important, role in reducing the risk to individuals of severe outcomes while taking pressure off Australia’s health care system.
The Age, quoting Associate Professor James Trauer, the head of epidemiological modelling at Monash University, said people aged 30 to 50 should make the choice based on their own risk factors, infection and vaccine history. “Everybody has to assess their own risk. If you have co-morbidities, of course that’s a reason you might want to [get the fourth dose],’’ Trauer said.
It is not clear how the BA4 and BA5 story will unfold but our battle with the pandemic is ongoing. Amid the uncertainty, everyone must do their best to confront COVID. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is eligible for a booster shot?
ATAGI specifically recommended that people aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose, while people aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot.
ATAGI reiterated that people who had already been eligible for the fourth dose, including those aged 65 years and over, remain at higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.
As at 7 July 2022, 60 per cent of people aged 65 years and over have had their fourth dose. People who haven’t already received it are strongly encouraged to have it as soon as possible.
ATAGI also recommended the interval between vaccine doses, or prior infection (whichever comes later), be reduced from four months to three months to provide earlier additional protection.
People aged 50 years and over who haven’t yet had a fourth vaccine are encouraged to make an appointment as soon as possible to ensure they are up to date with their vaccination and have the greatest protection possible against COVID-19.
Will one experience side effects from a booster?
One may experience common, mild side effects when getting your booster dose, similar to those after the first two doses. They can include a sore arm, fever, muscle aches or feeling tired. Chat to a GP if you’re concerned.
Rigorous assessment and approval processes, undertaken by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), ensure that all COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, are safe and effective.
For more information, click here.
How to book booster doses
Use the COVID-19 Clinic Finder or use ‘Hey Eva’—Easy Vaccine Access.
EVA, is a simple call back service to help people book a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you need help making a COVID-19 vaccine booking, SMS ‘Hey EVA’ to 0481 611 382. A trained call agent from the National Coronavirus Helpline will call you to help book your COVID-19 vaccination.
You can also contact your local GP or pharmacy to book in for your fourth shot. Also, search for clinics on the federal government’s Vaccine Clinic Finder.
Types of vaccines
If you are aged 18 years or older, you can have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster dose regardless of which vaccine you had for your first two doses.
(*Names changes on request for reasons of privacy)
(With additional inputs from the health department websites)
The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.