Booster shots to start in November; home-use tests to be available soon
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, for individuals 18 years and older.
The provisional approval means that individuals aged 18 years and older may receive a booster (third dose), at least six months after the completion of a COVID-19 vaccine primary series.
This primary series can be of any of the COVID-19 vaccines registered for use in Australia, although data on the use of Comirnaty as a booster with other COVID-19 vaccines is more limited.
Individuals who have received one dose of Comirnaty should preferably receive a second dose of Comirnaty to complete the primary vaccination course and for any additional doses, the TGA said.
A booster program for the general population is expected to commence on 8 November, subject to final ATAGI advice, with original priority groups, including people in aged care and disability care settings, to be offered the option to receive a booster as a priority.
The government also expects that Moderna will shortly apply to the TGA for registration of booster doses for its vaccine.
With over 151 million Pfizer, Novavax and Moderna vaccines already secured for supply into the future, Australia is well prepared to provide booster doses as approvals are provided by the medical experts.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Dr Karen Price said that the TGA decision was a positive step forward in the vaccine rollout.
“We know that the strength of immunity afforded by the COVID-19 vaccines does wane over time. So, ensuring that our immunity to COVID-19 is ‘topped up’ by a booster dose will make a real difference in keeping people as safe as possible from harm,” Price said.
“Our aim will be to provide boosters to the original priority groups, which includes some of our more vulnerable populations. It is expected that we will give booster doses to aged care and disability care residents through in-reach teams visiting these facilities.”
“Practices will have to adjust their vaccine processes, get their heads around what this means for their day-to-day operations and carefully plan out how they will deliver these doses,” Price said.
The TGA has also approved nine COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests (home use tests) for supply in Australia from 1 November 2021. The list of self-tests approved by the TGA can be found here. The test kits will be sold at supermarkets, pharmacies and other online and in-store suppliers.
Dr Michael Lydeamore, Research Fellow, Central Clinical School, Monash University said, “Rapid antigen testing has worked very well overseas, especially in places where we’re trying to keep transmission capped rather than track every single case. While they’re not as sensitive as a PCR test, their ease-of-use makes them very attractive.
“As we enter the next stage of the pandemic, rapid antigen tests will help us work out quickly what can stay open, and help us get a quicker understanding of the disease dynamics in play.”
Medcart, an online supplier of medical equipment, PPE and healthcare products, said business owners should look at rapid COVID testing as an insurance policy against costly shutdowns. “Can you afford to have your business shut down for two weeks and cover the costly cleaning bills? The opportunity to have your workforce test at home before they travel to work is a game changer,” said MedCart founder Phil Leahy.
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