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: 18 January 2023

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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 provide 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.

Clinical criteria in support of second booster eligibility

In addition, a second booster is available for:

  • Māori and Pacific peoples aged 40 years and over (from 18 November 2022)
  • 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 provide 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.

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.

[Masele] Talofa lava, my name is Masele. I am immunocompromised. And this is my mum.

[Malua] Talofa lava, my name is Malua.

[Masele] I tested positive 8 months after I had my booster shot. When I got COVID-19, or me and my husband got COVID-19, we had sore joints, we thought we were going to die, literally, because we couldn't breathe, and every symptom that we, that was, you know, we had known about, we got during the time we had COVID-19.

[Malua] When I was watching my daughter when they got COVID-19, I felt sorry for them, because they were sick. You know, they were really unwell. When I had COVID-19, about a second day, when I supposed to have it, the only thing that I ever, ever had was a runny nose.

[Masele] The only thing that was different was that Mum had had her second booster the week before, and so, we were really wishing that we had it too by then.

[Malua] I think because I had my second booster, that's how it saved me with all the other COVID-19 signs. So it was good, it's good to have the second booster.

[Masele] Now that, COVID-19 levels have relaxed now, we see how more important it is for you to keep your vaccinations up to date and to just keep track of that. Cause I lost track of it, myself. I would really encourage you to make it a priority to get your vaccines up to date and protect yourselves and your families.

We really believe that if we had our booster like Mum did, we wouldn't have had to experience what we did. Which, you know, we never want to experience that ever again. Get your booster, it's really important.

 

Masele and her mum Malua talk about the importance of getting a booster – especially if you are immunocompromised.

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


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 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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