COVID-19 vaccine: Boosters

Ages 16+ are eligible for boosters. If you've had COVID-19 it's recommended you wait 3 months after testing positive before getting any COVID-19 vaccination.

Last updated: 9 September 2022

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Timings for a booster

If you're aged 18 or over, and you completed your primary vaccination course* at least 3 months ago, you're eligible for a Pfizer booster. Novavax is available as a booster at least 6 months after completing the primary course of any COVID-19 vaccine used in New Zealand.

AstraZeneca is no longer available in New Zealand. You can still access the Pfizer vaccine, or the Novavax vaccine as a non-mRNA alternative.

If you're aged 16 or 17, and you completed your primary vaccination course* at least 6 months ago, you're eligible for a booster. Only Pfizer is approved for this age group.

You can check when your last vaccination was by logging into My Covid Record.

*For most people a primary course is two doses.

Recommended timing gaps for different COVID-19 vaccines

If you've had COVID-19 recently

If you've had COVID-19 it's recommended you wait 3 months after testing positive before getting any COVID-19 vaccination.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you've had COVID-19

Under 16s

People under the age of 16 are not eligible for a booster. However, you can discuss specific clinical circumstances with your GP or healthcare provider.

As with all medicines, vaccines can be used outside of Medsafe approval (this is called ‘off label’) if they are prescribed by an authorised prescriber. A GP can decide whether to provide a prescription after a conversation about the benefits and risks. 


Second boosters

A second booster is recommended for those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 – a minimum of 6 months after a first booster. For those who are not considered at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, a two-dose primary course and a first booster dose provides very good protection against severe illness from COVID-19 at this time.

People recommended to receive a second booster as a priority

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • Māori and Pacific peoples aged 50 years and over
  • residents of aged care and disability care facilities
  • severely immunocompromised people who received a three-dose primary course and a fourth dose as a first booster (noting this would be a fifth dose for these people)

Other people recommended to receive a second booster as a priority

  • people aged 16 years and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe breakthrough COVID-19 illness and
  • people aged 16 years and over who live with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities.

    See Clinical criteria in support of second booster eligibility

In addition, a second booster is available for:

  • all people aged 50 years and over
  • health, aged care and disability workers aged 30 years and over.

A second booster is not yet needed by younger people who are generally healthy and do not have underlying health conditions. This includes people who are currently healthy and pregnant. If a second booster is recommended for you and you are pregnant, this is due at least 6 months after your previous dose.

If a second booster is recommended for you, this is due at least 6 months after your previous dose. If you are not considered at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, a two-dose primary course and a booster dose provides very good protection against severe illness from COVID-19.

You can book an appointment for a booster dose through Book My Vaccine, or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

The Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand, reflecting its excellent safety and effectiveness profile. For adults aged 18 and above who wish to have a different COVID-19 vaccine option, Novavax is available as a second booster at least 6 months after the first booster.   


Why you need to stay up to date with your vaccinations

Having COVID-19 does not provide the same level of immunity as getting vaccinated. We also know that your protection from the primary course of the vaccine decreases over time.

To keep your immunity levels high, stay up to date with your vaccinations – including boosters. This will lower your chances of getting very sick from COVID-19 and ending up in hospital.

Hear from experts

Kia ora koutou, Talofa lava, mālō e lelei. I am doctor Natalie Netzler and I’m a virologist.

My name is Chris Puliuvea, I’m an immunologist.

How do vaccines work to protect us?

So vaccines work by training our immune system to recognise bugs as foreign invaders. So when we breathe them in or we catch a bug our immune system recognises these bugs and kicks them out, and the wonderful thing about our immunity is that it has a memory. So when we see the real virus in the real world, we are protected and that keeps us out of hospital.

Why is it important to keep up to date with immunisations?

So it’s important to have a booster every time one is due so that you keep your immune system high, because our immune starts to drop over time, it’s just a reminder for our immune system to kick out this foreign invader before it makes us really sick. Hospitals as well are becoming overcrowded, there’s too many people going in and the best way to protect us is to get vaccinated and stay on top of that.

Who are boosters particularly important for?

Boosters are very important for everybody, particularly those in the older age groups. They are more vulnerable and also those that have underlying health conditions.

How long do you have to wait for a booster after you’ve tested positive for COVID-19?

You should wait for three months after testing positive for COVID-19 before you get your booster and that’s just to let your body fully recover and let your immune system calm down. That gap of three months also means that you get the best immune response to the COVID-19 booster.

Why is it important not to put off getting a booster?

I understand that some people are particularly scared of needles and they don’t like the idea of another shot, but I would just say that if you get COVID-19 and you have to go to hospital, you’ll have so many more needles to face. So it really is the easiest way to protect yourself from getting really sick and needing hospital is just that booster to keep that immunity high. We can go out and get vaccinated to keep ourselves safe and keep our family safe and look forward to summer where we can go out and spend time with family and friends.

To find out if you’re eligible for a COVID-19 booster, visit covid19.govt.nz or call 0800 28 29 26

Virologist Dr Natalie Netzler and immunologist Chris Puliuvea explain why it's important to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination.

Why is a booster needed?

[Dr Lily] So I understand that some people are feeling frustrated that they've already had two vaccines and now we're asking you to also get the booster.

For omicron the booster is really important, because over time our immunity does wane, and so by having the booster it brings it back up again to give your body the best chance to be protected against Omicron.

How effective is the booster dose?

[Dr Siouxsie] The data is really clear from lots of countries overseas, that people who have had that third booster dose are more protected against Omicron than if they don't have it.

They're more protected from getting infection, they're more protected from hospitalisation, and they're more protected from dying from the disease.

Does it still take two weeks to become fully protected?

[Dr Api] It is probably going to be at your maximum after two weeks, but because you've already got some immunity there from your first two doses, the booster shot works much faster at pushing your immunity up.

Is it likely we will need more doses in the future?

[Dr Api] Researchers are continuing to look at the COVID-19 virus, but unfortunately it's like gazing into a crystal ball.

Viruses do mutate. And so if it becomes obvious that we will need another booster shot, the researchers will find that out for us, make sure they test the vaccines to check for its safety, before they recommend it.

How is Omicron different to Delta?

[Dr Siouxsie] The reason Omicron appears mild is because doctors have got a lot better at treating COVID-19.

We now have antivirals available and we have a lot of people who've either around the world been infected before, so have some immunity, or have been vaccinated.

This is not a disease that you want to get we should be trying to avoid it.

We definitely see protection if you've had that third dose.

So it's really really important that people get it.

What we also know is that because this variant is so infectious, even if there are less hospitalisations, there are still relatively more - and that's led to an overwhelming of healthcare systems overseas.

Is the booster the same as the previous doses?

[Dr Anthony] So, it's the same dose, it's 30 micrograms, same volume.

For those of us that get it again it'll look pretty much the same as what you remember last time.

Really importantly though, it doesn't give you any more side effects than your dose two.

I know a lot of people have said, oh, am I gonna feel more side effects after a third dose?

That gap is quite important in terms of reducing your side effects.

Why is the booster now given three months after the second dose?

[Dr Anthony] We need to remember that that dose interval that went from four months to three months has been studied to make sure that it gives you good protection.

So once we see the levels starting to drop down, If we can get that booster in there as soon as possible, it lifts your protection back up again.

And that's why we've seen that interval for the booster dose come back to three months.

 

Dr Lily Fraser, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Dr Api Talemaitoga, and Dr Anthony Jordan answer your questions about the COVID-19 booster.

How to get a booster

You can get a booster dose the same way you got your previous COVID-19 vaccinations – including walk-in sites and drive-throughs.

You can book an appointment for a booster dose through Book My Vaccine or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

Recommended timing gaps for different COVID-19 vaccines


Proof of your booster

When you do get any COVID-19 vaccination, it will be added to My Covid Record. You can then download another International Vaccination Certificate, vaccination record, or My Vaccine Pass.

My Covid Record

My Vaccine Pass from June 1st

An updated My Vaccine Pass is available for anyone aged 12 and over who is up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as those with a temporary medical exemption.

Age Doses needed to get an updated My Vaccine Pass
18 years and over 2 primary doses, plus a booster
12 to 17-year-olds 2 primary doses
5 to 11-year-olds Vaccine passes not needed, and not available for this age group

My Vaccine Pass

What being 'up-to-date' with your vaccinations means

A person is up to date with their vaccinations if they have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, including any booster dose(s) if and when eligible, according to their age and other factors.


Side effects of boosters

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 of the Pfizer vaccine

Text invites to submit side effects

If you have a booster, you may be invited by text to let us know about any side effects experienced – this is called a ‘Post Vaccine Symptom Check’.

The text invite will come from the Ministry of Health and you’ll be asked to reply ‘YES’, ‘NO’, or ‘STOP’. All replies are free of charge.

If you want to take part you’ll be sent a link to an online web form.

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