Do you need a COVID jab?

nurse with older female patient, getting a COVID-19 booster
  18 March 2024  Star Weekly   

This article was first published in Northern Star Weekly on 14 March 2024.

Written by Christopher Carter, CEO, NWMPHN

Are you up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations?

If you’re not sure of the answer, that’s completely understandable. Last year, it seemed like the official advice on who should have a jab, when to have it, and when to have a booster changed more often than the Melbourne weather.

Happily, it’s all much clearer now. A couple of weeks ago, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or ATAGI, the official body that decides on all sorts of vaccinations, issued new advice for 2024.

Before we get into the details, though, we need to talk about the virus. It is still around in our community, big-time, and just because it’s not talked about much it doesn’t mean it’s gone away.

COVID-19 is still taking its toll, and it’s making many, many people ill. Even a mild dose can leave you feeling groggy and brain-foggy for weeks after your tests turn negative.

None of the vaccines available will stop you getting COVID-19. They weren’t designed to do that. What they will do, though, is lessen the chance of you catching it and increase the chance that it will be a mild dose if you do.

So, getting a free jab if you can is in everyone’s interest. But who can, and who can’t, get one?

ATAGI recommends that if you are 75 or over, you should get one every six months. If you’re between 65 and 74 you should get one every 12 months and chat with your GP about maybe getting one every six.

If you’re between 18 and 64 with a damaged immune system, you should get one every 12 months and talk to your GP or specialist about doubling that.

People in that age group who are otherwise healthy can have a jab every 12 months if your GP or other medical professional thinks it’s a good idea.

Children aged 5 to 17 who have severely damaged immune systems can receive a single dose this year, but teenagers and children who are in good health and who had already been vaccinated in the past don’t need a booster.

Parents of children under five should have a chat with their GP or other health care professional.

Of course, there are some other factors to think about – like how long ago you had a booster shot or an actual case of COVID-19. Again, the best option is to chat with your GP in person or through a quick telehealth appointment. Many pharmacists also offer vaccinations.

All COVID-19 vaccinations are free for everyone. You don’t even need a Medicare card!

And one more thing you could consider. Autumn will be here soon, bringing with it the annual flu outbreak. It’s a very good idea to get a flu shot when they become available – and it’s extremely safe and entirely possible to get both vaccinations at the same time.

(One in each arm is a good idea, though … )