A million more eligible for COVID-19 booster in New Zealand as interval reduced to three months

The COVID-19 booster vaccination interval has been reduced to three months, meaning a million more people in New Zealand over 18 will be eligible from Friday. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Cabinet ministers considered advice from Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group. 

The interval between second dose and booster dose was reduced from six months to four months in December as part of the Government's response to Omicron. With the variant now spreading in New Zealand, the latest change means more people will be protected if they come into contact with it. 

"Bringing forward the booster timing will help those who have been immunised more recently. It will mean more people, especially Māori, will be able to receive a booster before Omicron takes hold in communities," Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

"Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and ending up in hospital. Fewer hospitalisations from COVID-19 will mean our health system can continue to provide the full range of care people need, in particular for our most vulnerable such as people with disabilities or long-term illnesses.

"It is also important to reduce impacts on other workforces such as those involved with the supply chain to ensure people have access to goods and services."

The shortened booster interval to three months only applies to the Pfizer vaccine. The COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group will provide separate advice on AstraZeneca later this month.