As the Mid-Western region exceeds the 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark, eligible residents are encouraged to consider getting a coronavirus booster dose.
To help navigate the process, South Mudgee Surgery GP Dr Alex Ghanem sat down with the Mudgee Guardian to talk all things related to booster shots.
While the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) understands the primary COVID-19 vaccines are a "strong immune response", studies have shown that there is a decrease in protection over time.
"Immunity does decrease. In Israel, we saw breakthroughs in the last few months and found the antibody levels decrease over time, not a lot but enough to lead to a lot more breakthrough infections," Dr Ghanem said.
"It's not so much you need to have one, but we know the effectiveness of the vaccine does decrease...however, two courses of the primary vaccine provides a very high level of protection.
"Boosters may be beneficial, particularly in certain groups, which is why ATAGI has recommended boosters to reduce the rates of reinfection."
While not mandatory, boosters may be required for international or interstate travel, and there is potential for the current advice to change given the fluidity of the situation.
"Boosters are not mandatory, in fact, ATAGI states that two vaccine doses should give you very good protection. Though it may be needed when travelling to other countries or interstate," Dr Ghanem said.
"This situation may change in NSW. Even though infection rates are very low at the moment, we have to remember that we're in summer, we've had a great period of lockdown, and the state has just opened up.
"This is a very fluid and changing situation so the advice we have may well change in the next few months, we may find there's a lot more community spread and this advice may become a lot more relevant over time."
At the present time, those in priority groups are recommended for a booster shot six months after their second COVID vaccine dose.
Eligible residents for a booster dose include:
Children under the age of 18 are not recommended to have a booster, while those who have had three doses are also exempt.
"If you are in a high risk group, particularly over the age of 50 or you have chronic health problems, you may consider having the booster," Dr Ghanem said.
According to ATAGI, Pfizer is recommended as the single booster dose, regardless of what primary COVID-19 vaccine an individual received.
However, AstraZeneca can also be used as a booster if an individual had a reaction to Pfizer in the past.
"We don't know what role Moderna plays at this stage. Although it's available, it hasn't been approved as a booster at this point in time," Dr Ghanem confirmed.
The booster and an influenza shot can be given at the same time.
At this stage, Dr Ghanem said "it's too early to speculate as to what happens beyond the booster".
"It may be that we just need three doses of this vaccine, a little bit like the tetanus shots we give three doses of in the first year of life. This is all very new."
At the time of publication, more than 95 per cent of residents over the age of 16 years have received their first COVID vaccine dose, while 90.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.
"I would like to commend people within the region for stepping up and having the vaccine to keep each other safe," Dr Ghanem said.
"While it is a terrific effort, we hope to get to 95 per cent double vaxxed in the Mid-Western area."
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