More than 2 million Australians have tested positive for COVID-19, but the explosion in infections has coincided with the widening availability of booster shots.
Currently those aged 16 and above are eligible for a booster three months after their second dose of a vaccine after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recently updated its advice for those aged 16 and 17
But what happens when you get sick with COVID-19 around the time of your scheduled shot?
There is no hard and fast rule for when to schedule a booster shot after having COVID-19. And there have been mixed messages from authorities, partly because there is currently a lack of information on how much protection previous infection with the Omicron variant is likely to provide.
The optimal timing will depend on an individual’s personal circumstances, including how severe their illness was, how long it’s been since their symptoms resolved, and what their risk for re-exposure is.
In general, experts believe that there’s nothing to stop a person receiving a vaccine dose — be it a booster or part of an initial course — once their symptoms have ceased completely and their isolation period has ended.
ATAGI says “there is no requirement to delay vaccination” after a COVID-positive person has recovered from acute illness in most cases.
However, it does say people who received specific antibody treatments for COVID-19 should wait. That’s because the antibodies could interfere with the vaccine.
“Vaccination should be deferred for 90 days in people who have received anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma therapy,” ATAGI says.
ATAGI says that if a patient tests positive for COVID-19 between their first and second doses, or between their second and booster dose, the patient should delay their appointment until they have recovered from the illness.
There are mixed messages from state jurisdictions, despite ATAGI being quite clear. The NSW Government has been suggesting patients wait about 4 – 6 weeks after recovery, while the Victorian Department of Health advises people who have had COVID-19 to have their booster ‘as soon as symptoms subside’. One reason for going for an early booster once symptoms have resolved is that it’s becoming clear that natural infection with omicron doesn’t give you very broad immunity against other variants whereas the vaccines appear to do better.
According to Associate Professor Margie Danchin of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, groups who may particularly need fairly prompt boosters after infection include:
- Those with underlying health conditions who are at higher medical risk
- Those whose workplaces mean they are higher risk of exposure to COVID-19
- Those whose work industries have booster mandates in place