COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

Also called booster shot

In Aotearoa New Zealand, booster doses for the COVID-19 vaccine are available if you are aged 18 years or over and it has been 4 months since your second dose.

On this page, you can find the following information:

You can get a booster dose if:

✔ you are aged 18 or over
✔ you have already had two doses of the vaccine
✔ it has been at least 4 months since your second dose.

Where can I get my COVID-19 vaccine booster dose?

You can get a booster dose by:

  • going to a walk-in vaccination clinic
  • going to a pharmacy that is offering booster vaccinations
  • making an appointment with your doctor, if they are doing COVID-19 vaccinations
  • booking through Book My Vaccine or calling 0800 28 29 26. 

Why do we need a booster shot?

Current evidence shows that immunity produced by the COVID-19 vaccine reduces over time, particularly from 4–6 months after a primary vaccination course. This means that protection against the COVID-19 virus decreases over time. 

Booster doses are given to “boost” the immune response to previous antibody levels. There are many other vaccines that require booster doses such as tetanus vaccine and measles vaccine.  

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a booster dose is recommended no earlier than 4 months after you finish your primary vaccination course. The COVID vaccine booking systems and the COVID Immunisation Register (CIR) have been updated to make sure there is a gap of at least 4 months before you get a booster, as of January 2022.

Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose?

  • A booster vaccine dose is available for anyone 18 years and over who completed their vaccination course at least 4 months prior to their planned booster shot either in Aotearoa New Zealand or overseas
  • The recommended start date for giving boosters at 4 months is 5 January 2022
    The booking system is being updated and can be used for booster appointments at 4 months from 17 January 2022.

Healthcare and border workers are a priority group for booster vaccine doses as they are at the front-line of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because large numbers of healthcare workers completed their primary vaccination course over 6 months ago. 

In addition older people and kaumātua, including people in residential care, should also have booster doses when they become eligible.

Which vaccine will be used for booster doses?

The Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine in Aotearoa New Zealand for booster doses, even if you had a different vaccine for your earlier doses. The booster dose will be same dosage (amount) as your previous two doses. 

If you had your vaccination overseas, you can currently get a Pfizer booster at 4 months after you received your most recent vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is the recommended booster dose regardless of what vaccine you had for earlier doses.

Are COVID-19 vaccine booster doses mandatory?

Currently in Aotearoa New Zealand booster doses are not mandatory for workers who are required to be vaccinated, or to get a vaccine certificate used to access events, gyms, churches, hairdressers, and other services and premises.

You do not need a booster dose to be ‘fully vaccinated’ or to get a vaccine pass or certificate. If you do get a booster dose, it will be added to your My Covid Record and you can create another pass.

Should I get a booster dose if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant, aged 18 years and older, it is recommended you receive a booster of the Pfizer vaccine to help protect you and your baby against the effects of COVID-19. The booster can be given at any stage of pregnancy, at least 4 months after your primary course (for most people, this is 2 doses).

You should discuss the timing of a booster with your midwife, obstetrician or general practitioner.

Should I get a booster dose if I am immunocompromised?

Yes, if you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system, you can get a booster dose 6 months after receiving your third primary dose (also called additional dose).

People with healthy immune systems need 2 doses of the COVID vaccine to be fully immunised. However, if you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system, you will need a third primary dose as part of your primary immunisation schedule.  Having a weakened immune system means that you may not build the same level of immunity with 2 doses of the vaccine, to adequately protect you against COVID-19. Read more about a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for severely immunocompromised people.

What is the difference between a booster dose and a third primary dose?

A third primary dose is administered to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. This third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is intended to improve an immunocompromised person's response to their initial vaccine series. Read more about eligibility for a third primary COVID-19 vaccine dose.

A booster shot is administered to people with healthy immune systems, to give them added protection. This is because the protection from their first and second dose decreases over time.

The following table gives a summary of the differences between a third primary dose and a booster dose.

Third primary dose Booster dose
Who should get this? 
If you are aged 12 years or over, with a compromised (weakened) immune system, and have already received 2 doses of the COVID vaccine.
Who should get this?
Anyone aged 18 years and over, if it has been 4 months since their second dose.
When is this dose given?
More than 8 weeks after the second dose.
When is this dose given?
4-6 months after the second dose.
Why is this dose necessary?
The third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is intended to improve an immunocompromised person's response to their initial vaccine series.
Why is this dose necessary?
Current evidence shows that protection against the COVID-19 virus decreases over time, particularly from 6 months after a primary vaccination course. The booster dose is given to “boost” the immune response to previous antibody levels, offering greater protection against the COVID-19 virus.

What are the side effects of the booster dose?

Side effects of booster doses are like those from primary vaccine doses. These include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea and feeling tired or fatigued. Read more about the Pfizer vaccine. 

Learn more

Getting your booster dose Ministry of Health, NZ
My Covid Record guide available in a number of languages, Unite Against COVID-19, NZ

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Editorial team Last reviewed: 17 Dec 2021