Covid-19 booster shots are expected to be rolled out across Australia within weeks, raising questions as to whether two or three doses will be considered “fully vaccinated”.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) vaccine committee met on Monday to discuss whether to formally approve the top-up shots for the general public to maximise protection against the deadly virus.
In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for the TGA indicated a decision on the third jab rollout is a “priority” and could be made within “several days”.
“Following an application’s consideration at the Advisory Committee on Vaccines, it is then subject to final formal engagement with the sponsor and the TGA," the TGA spokesperson said.
"Once any outstanding issues are addressed, the TGA will make a regulatory decision. This process will be undertaken as a priority and can be undertaken within several days."
The federal government confirmed last week it is waiting for final approval to launch a third round of vaccinations in the second week of November.
Booster shots have already been made available for severely immunocompromised Australians.
Will boosters be needed to keep freedoms?
It follows a suggestion from Victorian premier Daniel Andrews that booster shots may be required to keep recently introduced vaccinated freedoms.
“There may be state clinics in that or it might be all done through GPs and pharmacies, that hasn’t been worked through yet. We’re happy to play our part, though. So it’ll be about the maintenance of your vaccination status,” he said on Sunday.
US may update its ‘fully vaccinated’ definition
It comes as the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers updating its definition of what constitutes full vaccination.
"We have not yet changed the definition of 'fully vaccinated.' We will continue to look at this. We may need to update our definition of 'fully vaccinated' in the future," CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.
Booster debate slammed as ‘premature’
But a leading Australian doctor has warned it may be a bit “premature” to discuss changing the meaning of what constitutes “fully vaccinated”.
The Australian Medical Association Vice-President Dr Chris Moy told Yahoo News the evidence for boosters is “still to be determined”, with scientists fiercely debating whether they are really needed at all.
“Despite the fact we are heading toward boosters, the evidence is totally unclear at the moment,” he said.
He questioned whether the definition needs to be updated if two doses adequately protects people from severe disease.
“There is a lot of science still to be played out essentially.”
Boosters could include vaccine mixing
Meanwhile, it’s likely Australians may receive a different vaccine for their top-up compared to their first two doses, according to a leading epidemiologist.
Infectious diseases expert Peter Collignon believes mixing and matching vaccine brands will be “inevitable” when boosters are rolled out to the general public.
"How you best mix and match we don't know yet, but we can get data from North America," Professor Collignon told the Seven Network on Tuesday.
"Summer is likely to have much less transmission than next winter, so we have got about four or five months to get an answer for this."
It is likely mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, would be predominantly used for the third vaccine doses.
Details of the Booster plan are yet to be revealed but it's understood patients will receive a text message or letter a month before they are due for their top-up dose.
News Corp reports GPs, pharmacies and state-run facilities will be responsible for administering boosters.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.