Third vaccine dose now available for severely immune deficient Australians

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Severely immunocompromised Australians, including many older people, are able to access a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine from this week.

The announcement by Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt follows advice from ATAGI, which says some people with severe immune deficiencies – up to around 500,000 Australians, including some being treated for cancer or organ failure, or with immunosuppressive drugs – will need three doses of vaccine to achieve maximum protection from COVID.

“Australians who are severely immunocompromised may have a decreased immune response to a COVID-19 vaccination and be more at risk from severe COVID-19. An additional booster dose for this specific cohort will ensure they continue to be protected.

“If you or someone in your family are severely immunocompromised, we encourage you to reach out to your GP or specialist to discuss whether an additional dose is required,” said Mr Hunt.

The announcement recommends the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for the third dose, which should come two to six months after the second.

Studies have shown older people have a lower immune response to the Pfizer vaccine than younger people, and some countries such as Israel are already offering third doses to those over 60. Early data released by Pfizer showed that a third dose of its vaccine can boost immunity in recipients aged 65 to 85.

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are proven to severely reduce the risk of severe disease among older people, even after a single dose.

The Government expects advice from the TGA and ATAGI on booster shots for all Australians within the coming weeks.

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