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.

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.

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. A second booster dose is recommended for those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

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.

Second booster

A second booster is recommended for those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The second booster is given at least 6 months after a first booster.

The following people are prioritised to get a second booster:

  • 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)
  • 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:

  • 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 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 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.