Why I need a booster
While two doses are likely to provide a good degree of protection against severe disease from Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants for some time, a booster dose is likely to offer greater protection.
Current evidence shows your protection against infection after the primary vaccination course decreases over time. Giving a ‘top up’ vaccine after a primary course helps boost your immunity against COVID-19.
The booster rollout has been accelerated as one of several measures to protect everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand against new variants of COVID-19.
Anyone aged 18 or older who has had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months ago is urged to get their free booster vaccine to help protect themselves, their whānau and the wider community.
My Vaccine Pass
You currently do not need to have a booster to be certified as ‘fully vaccinated’ for My Vaccine Pass or an International Travel Vaccination Certificate.
What vaccine is being used for boosters
The Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine being used in New Zealand for boosters, regardless of what vaccine was used for earlier doses.
It is recommended that pregnant people aged 18 and older receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to help protect them and their baby against the effects of COVID-19. The booster vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy at least 4 months after the primary course (for most people, this is two doses). Pregnant people should discuss the timing of their booster with their midwife, obstetrician or general practitioner.
Medsafe’s experts only grant consent for a vaccine to be used in New Zealand/Aotearoa once they are satisfied it has passed required levels of safety and effectiveness. The Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine booster has already been approved for use in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia. Medsafe will continue to monitor:
- the overall safety profile of the vaccine
- any reported reactions (the frequency, the severity, and any previously unknown reactions)
- the effectiveness of the vaccine overall and in certain groups.
Potential side effects of Pfizer booster vaccine
How I might feel
You may experience some side effects, similar to those you might’ve had after the first or second dose, such as muscle aches, pain at the injection site or headaches. For most people these are mild effects. They are a sign your body’s immune system is learning to fight the virus. They don’t last long and for many people do not impact on day-to-day activities.
Rare side effects
There are some side effects that are more serious but rare, like a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. This is the reason people are observed for around 15 minutes post vaccination. Vaccinators are welltrained in managing these reactions if they occur.
Myocarditis and Pericarditis
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is inflammation of the tissue forming a sac around the heart. These conditions are usually caused by viral infections (including COVID-19), but they are also very rare and serious side effects of the Pfizer vaccine.
Symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis linked to the vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first few weeks after having the vaccine. If you get any of these new symptoms after your vaccination, you should seek medical help, especially if these symptoms don’t go away:
- tightness, heaviness, discomfort or pain in your chest or neck
- difficulty breathing or catching your breath
- feeling faint or dizzy or light-headed
- fluttering, racing or pounding heart, or feeling like it is ‘skipping beats’
If you feel any of these symptoms in the days or weeks after the vaccine, you should seek medical help. There will be no charge for the consultation.
You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 anytime to get advice. If you have an immediate concern about your safety, call 111, and make sure you tell them you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccination, or have or had COVID-19 so they can assess you properly.
You can report any side effects you experience at: report.vaccine.covid19.govt.nz.
Getting a booster
If you are 18 years and older you will be able to get a booster dose the same way you got vaccinated with your primary course. For most people, a primary course is two doses. For people who are severely immunocompromised, a primary course could be three doses.
When you arrive for your booster, the date of your last dose will be checked in the booking system to ensure it has been at least 4 months since you completed the primary course.
You can check when you are due for a booster by visiting mycovidrecord.nz or if you have one, referring to your purple COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card.
To book an appointment for your booster go to: BookMyVaccine.nz.
You can also get a booster at a walk-in clinic, pharmacy or your GP. If you’re unable to book online, you can call the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week). We’ll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpretation services, and text, email and NZ Relay options for deaf and hearing impaired are available if you need them. There is also a specialist team for disabled people (option 2 on the 0800 number).