Should over 60s who received the AstraZeneca get boosters sooner?

Should over 60s who received the AstraZeneca get boosters sooner?

Some epidemiologists are calling for the time frame between the second COVID-19 vaccine and the booster to be shortened for those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne is one such epidemiologist, and he has highlighted the risk facing those in their 60s who will not be eligible to receive the booster shot for several months, both because of the delay between jabs one and two and the five-month delay between the second jab and the booster.

He described the five-month gap as “bordering on unethical”, arguing, “AstraZeneca recipients are often 60-plus, they're often more vulnerable, yet they had a vaccine where they had to wait three months between the first and second dose and now they're not eligible.”

Despite this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to adjust the time frame any further, after already reducing it from six months to five. Speaking to the media following an emergency National Cabinet meeting, Morrison said, "There's been plenty of discussion about whether the interval should be five months, four months, three months. That will be a decision for the vaccination experts at ATAGI. That is not a decision for myself as prime minister or the premiers and chief ministers."

Research suggests vaccines are less effective against the Omicron variant than they were against Delta, and research has also shown that vaccines steadily lost their effectiveness against COVID-19 in the weeks following the second dose. For AstraZeneca, effectiveness fell to 47.3 per cent after 20 weeks, falling even more for over-65s.

On the bright side, protection against hospitalisation did not fall as sharply, maintaining 77 per cent effectiveness after 20 weeks and almost 79 per cent effectiveness against death.

Linda Fisher and her husband Ken are some of the members of ‘Generation AZ’ who are concerned about the five-month wait. The Queensland couple have plans to travel to Melbourne next month, and because they are not yet eligible for a booster, having only received their second shot in November, they’re wondering if they’re putting their lives at risk by travelling interstate. They are not due to receive the booster until April.

Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist at Deakin University, urged those in vulnerable groups to exercise caution over the holidays. "People who are a bit older and have other comorbidities need to take precautions this Christmas.” Despite this, he stressed that we are not “back to square one” thanks to the Omicron variant, explaining, "Most people have a certain degree of immunity which changes the equation completely from a virus that's spreading in a population with no immunity.

“It's important to bring that fear level down a little bit, but at the same time acknowledge that yeah, this is a significant challenge."

Image: Morsa Images

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