Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be offered as a universal booster shot to Australian adults, six months after their second dose.
Medical regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the booster shot on Wednesday, with a national rollout set to be under way by November 8 at the latest.
Progress on boosters in Australia came hours after an advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly to recommend Pfizer’s vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. Australian regulators will consider a similar application within weeks.
Australians 18 and older will be eligible for Pfizer boosters regardless of which vaccine they received for their first two doses.
Third shots for people with compromised immune systems, including children as young as 12, have already begun.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said progress on boosters would make Australia one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. Countries including Israel, the US and UK have already administered millions of booster shots.
About 1.6 million people will be due for a booster by January 1, six months beyond their second vaccine dose.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will give final advice to the federal government within days. Priority groups, including the aged care sector, will be among the first to receive booster shots.
“Importantly the medical advice is that people remain fully vaccinated with two doses of TGA approved COVID-19 vaccines and the commencement of booster doses will provide additional protection and peace of mind for Australians,” Mr Hunt said.
“We have the supplies, we have a distribution mechanism, we will work with the states, the GPs, the pharmacies, the Indigenous vaccination clinics to ensure that everybody is in place.”
Vaccine mandates and other rules about protection against COVID-19 will not be affected by boosters. Australians will be allowed to travel after two doses, and third shots are not expected to be part of rules for public spaces or employment.
TGA boss John Skerritt said boosters would be the same dose, administered in the same way as the first two shots of Pfizer.
“Importantly, it was approved to go as a third dose after completion of the primary course of any of the other ones.
“No one will be six months after two Moderna doses yet, but there will be people who will be at six months after AstraZeneca in the coming months and there are some people who are six months after two Pfizers already,” he said.