COVID-19 vaccine booster

Also called booster shot

Anyone who is eligible to get their booster dose of the COVID vaccine is urged to get it. Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick from COVID-19 and ending up in hospital.

In Aotearoa New Zealand a first booster dose is recommended for anyone 16 years and older. A second booster dose is recommended for those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The second booster dose is offered at least six months after the previous dose or three months after a COVID-19 infection. 

Staying up to date with the recommended COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to protect you from the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation or death from COVID-19.

On this page, you can find the following information:

What is a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

A COVID booster dose is an additional dose or doses of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the primary vaccination course. 

Booster doses are necessary because after a few months, your protection against the COVID-19 virus starts to drop away, and it’s particularly important that you have the booster dose to protect you against this new Omicron variant.

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.

When should I get my booster dose?

In Aotearoa New Zealand a first booster dose is recommended for anyone 16 years and older. The timing of the booster depends on your age:

First booster

People 18 years and older: You can get your booster dose 3 months after completing your primary course.

16 and 17 year olds
: You can get your booster dose 6 months after completing your primary course.

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. 

Second booster

A second booster is recommended for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The second booster dose is offered at least 6 months after the previous dose or 3 months after a COVID-19 infection.

The following people are prioritised to get a second booster:

  • People aged 65 years and over.
  • Māori and Pasifika 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.
  • People aged 16 years and over who live with disability with major or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities.

In addition, a second booster is available for:

  • Māori and Pasifika aged 40 years and over (from 18 November 2022).
  • All people aged over 50 years.
  • Health, aged care and disability workers aged over 30 years.

You can check your eligibility to receive your booster dose by calling COVID vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 between 8am and 8pm any day of the week.

Where can I get my COVID-19 vaccine 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 through Book My Vaccine or by calling the COVID vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week). 

Should I get a booster if I have already had COVID?

Yes, it is recommended that you get your booster shot, even if you have had COVID. A booster can provide a stronger immunity response than the natural immunity from a COVID-19 infection. 

If you have had COVID-19, you should wait 3 months after testing positive before getting any COVID-19 vaccination.

Are boosters available for rangatahi aged under 16?

No, for rangatahi under 16, a booster dose is not currently approved by Medsafe or recommended by the immunisation programme. Medsafe has received some data from Pfizer for booster doses for the 12–15 year age group, but they are waiting for Pfizer to submit further information.

Once Medsafe receives this extra information, it will review it as a priority. 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.

Which vaccines are used for booster doses?

The Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand, including for the first and second booster doses. Pfizer vaccine booster doses are available to anyone 16 years and older.

For adults aged 18 and above who wish to have a different COVID-19 vaccine option, AstraZeneca and Novavax are available for both first and second boosters – the second booster is given at least six months after the first booster.   
Note: The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be available in New Zealand after 4 September 2022. See AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Should I get a booster if I am pregnant?

Yes, if you are pregnant 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 3 months after your second dose. Discuss the timing of a booster with your midwife, obstetrician or doctor. Read more about COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Should I get a booster dose if I am immunocompromised?

Yes, if you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system, you are eligible for 2 booster doses – the second booster is given 6 months after the first booster dose. 

If you’re severely immunocompromised you have a higher risk of getting serious infection from COVID-19 and your COVID vaccine requirements are different from that of a person with a healthy immune system. Having a weakened immune system means that you may not build the same level of immunity after vaccination, and you will require additional vaccine doses to adequately protect you against COVID-19.

Primary vaccination course: You will need 3 vaccine doses for your primary immunisation. 

Booster dose: You will need 2 booster doses:

  • the first booster dose is given 3 months after receiving your third primary dose
  • the second booster is given 6 months after the first booster dose. 

Read more about a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for severely immunocompromised people.

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.

Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.

Learn more

COVID-19 vaccine boosters Ministry of Health, NZ
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.