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Michael Baker urges eligible Kiwis to get new Covid booster


Epidemiologist Michael Baker has urged eligible Kiwis to get the new bivalent Covid-19 booster to stay better protected from Omicron as New Zealand heads into winter.

The new booster is available from tomorrow for anyone aged 30 or over, and anyone at an increased risk of severe illness from Covid, provided it’s been six months since their last booster or positive test and they’ve completed their primary course (two doses).

It does not matter how many previous booster doses that person has had.

It has been available since March 1 for people aged 16 or over who hadn’t yet had their first booster, and for people at an increased risk of severe illness from Covid who have not yet had their first or second booster.

Baker told Breakfast “we’re entering our fourth wave of Covid-19 infection in New Zealand”.

“It’s a smaller wave than the previous three but… it’s the biggest infectious disease killer still in New Zealand,” he said.

“Technically it’s still a pandemic but it’s definitely not an emergency any more,” he added.

But with winter on the way, the new booster is a “welcome advance” in the battle against Omicron, he said.

“It’s got a second component that’s matched to the Omicron variant that’s circulating, so that gives much better protection and it produces a broader range of antibodies, it reduces your chance of getting seriously ill and dying from this infection,” Baker explained.

“A bit like the way the flu vaccine is revised every year or two to keep ahead of the range of flu viruses, this is doing the same thing, and I think we’re moving now to potentially having an annual Omicron injection just like with a flu vaccine.

“That just reflects the fact that we have what’s called waning immunity, so we need to boost that, and also the fact that the virus keeps evolving and we have to modify the vaccines to keep ahead of it.

“I just really hope that people will get this new booster now that it’s available.”

Asked what kind of uptake could be expected, Baker said that ideally 90% of eligible Kiwis would get the additional dose.

“We did very well with the primary course, that’s the two injections, so hopefully we can get there with the booster.”

It comes as this year’s flu vaccine is also available from tomorrow.

Flu vaccines are free for people most likely to get seriously ill. Anyone aged over six months can get one.