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. Getting the booster dose offers the best protection against severe COVID infection and a need for hospitalisation.

16 and 17 year olds can get a booster

From Thursday 7 April, rangatahi aged 16 or 17 can get a COVID-19 booster from any walk-in vaccination site without booking.

They can book their booster through Book My Vaccine from Thursday 14 April.

Rangatahi aged 16 or 17 can get a booster 6 months after completing their primary vaccination course.

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

On this page, you can find the following information:

Having your booster will increase your protection against Omicron – especially your protection against severe disease needing hospitalisation. 

If you are at high risk of severe disease or exposure to COVID-19, you are especially encouraged to get your booster as soon as you are eligible.

Those at high risk include:

  • border and health care workers
  • Māori and Pacific peoples
  • people aged 65 years and over
  • people with pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

When should I get my booster dose?

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.

Where can I get my COVID-19 vaccine booster?

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. 

You can check your eligibility to receive your booster dose on MyCovidRecord, by referring to your vaccine appointment card, or calling 0800 28 29 26 between 8am and 8pm any day of the 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.

Can I get the booster if  I was vaccinated in another country?

Yes, you can get a free booster 3 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.

From 7 April, if you are aged 16 or 17 you can get a Pfizer booster 6 months after your most recent vaccine.

Why do we need a booster?

Current evidence shows that immunity produced by the COVID-19 vaccine reduces over time. 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.  

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 is approved for booster doses in people 16 years and older. Even if you had a different vaccine for your primary doses you can get the Pfizer vaccine. The booster dose will be the same dosage (amount) as your previous 2 doses.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is approved for booster doses in people 18 years and older. 

The Novavax vaccine is currently not approved as a booster due to limited data. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

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 can get a booster dose 3 months after receiving your third primary dose.

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 and a third primary dose?

The booster dose and third primary doses are the same dose (amount) and ingredients. The difference is in the body’s response to the 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. Due to their body's weaker immune system, they are not able to produce the same antibody response with just two doses. Read more about eligibility for a third primary COVID-19 vaccine dose. They will also still need a booster 3 months after the third primary dose, because the effect of the primary vaccines do wear off with time and are not effective enough against Omicron.

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.

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

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

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist.