COVID-19: Vaccine boosters on way by end of year for high-risk people

COVID booster vaccines are on the way by the end of the year for those most at risk.

Studies show the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine wanes after six months, so what does that mean for those who had their vaccines early?

Our older citizens are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. As such, they were prioritised for the vaccine.

Six months on, Ryman Healthcare is calling for booster shots.

"I'd like to see this rolled out to aged care facilities from November this year because many people had their second dose in aged care in May," Ryman Healthcare CEO Gordon MacLeod says.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand's ready to go.

"We've got the booster shots available, we've got the, obviously, clearly, we've got the network available to deliver them," he says.,

Just one thing - they still need approval.

"We're waiting for and we're expecting next week an application from Pfizer," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

Booster authorisation could be just weeks away.

"We are expecting to be starting booster shots, assuming that's where the science lands, this side of Christmas, so this year," Hipkins says.

Data shows the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing infection dropped from 88 percent to 47 percent six months after getting the second dose, but it remained 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

University of Auckland vaccinologist and associate professor Helen Petousis-Harris says people shouldn't be too worried.

"Yes, you're more likely to get infected as time goes on but still really well protected against getting sick."

The UK is already rolling out its booster campaign and the US has approved a Pfizer booster for over-65s and those at high risk. Our Government is due to set out its plan next week.

"Of course, the people we want to protect first with a booster will be those who were vaccinated first and perhaps the oldest and most vulnerable people," Prof Petousis-Harris says.

MacLeod says this is a good thing.

"Ultimately I think a booster shot for people in aged care will save lives. It going to allow also much much safer visiting for families," he says.

And it seems aged care residents could just get the pre-Christmas boost they need.