book booster jab
Australia's vaccine rollout plan covers international students who want to get a booster shot / Source: Saeed KHAN / AFP

With COVID-19 cases surging from the rise of the Omicron variant, one of the key ways to stay safe is for us to book booster jab appointments quick.

Australia’s vaccine rollout plan has been successful in getting over 90% of its adult population fully vaccinated, making it one of the top countries in the world with high COVID-19 vaccine rates. 

The threat of Omicron, however, has pushed the government to speed up this process. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recently reduced the time between booster shots from six to five months, allowing Australians a shorter interval to get vaccinated. Even then, state leaders are pushing for this period to be shortened to four months.

With the federal government incentivising GPs and pharmacists to book booster jabs, it’s set to be easier for everyone in Australia — including international to book booster jab appointments.

This is a fairly simple process for Australians, whose vaccines are covered under Medicare as part of Australia’s vaccine rollout plan. International students, however, don’t have access to Medicare.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Getting a COVID-19 booster vaccine in Australia is completely possible; you’ll just need to complete a few extra steps first. 

Medicare covers the cost of healthcare in Australia. Source: Philippe Huguen/AFP

What is Medicare?

Medicare refers to Australia’s universal health insurance scheme. Through this, every Australian is guaranteed access to medical services at low or no extra cost. This includes medical services by doctors and specialists, hospital treatment, and prescription medicines. 

Every Australian has access to this through a Medicare card, which allows them to link their medical history into one comprehensive format. It also gives them an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI), a unique number that health professionals use to ensure the right information is associated with the right individual. 

Medicare also covers the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone aged five and older in Australia. 

How can I get a booster vaccine without a Medicare card?

International students, however, don’t have access to Medicare. Instead, they have access to Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You may remember having taken this out when you first submitted your student visa application. Similar to Medicare, OSHC is designed to help you cover the cost of medical bills during your stay in Australia.

In this case, you’ll have to create a vaccination record in Australia before you can get a booster vaccine. Here’s how you can do that. 

International students can book their COVID-19 booster with a few simple steps. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

1. Register for a myGov account

myGov is Australia’s solution for everyone, regardless of nationality or citizenship, to access online government services. This includes Australia JobSearch, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, HousingVic Online Services, and health services such as the National Cancer Screening Register and My Health Record.

You need to register for a myGov account before you’re able to use these resources. It’s a step-by-step online process that requires you to enter your passport and visa details, among others. You’ll also need a valid Australian phone number. 

2. Create your Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI)

As you wouldn’t have an IHI without a pre-existing Medicare card, you’ll need to create one for yourself. Luckily, this is a simple process. 

The quickest way to do so is to apply for an IHI online. All you need to do is log into your myGov account, select “services” or “link your first service,” then navigate to “select IHI service.” After that, just follow the prompts that are listed out.

You can also choose to request an IHI by submitting a form here.

Locate the nearest vaccine provider near you to book an appointment. Source: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

3. Book booster jab appointment

You’re now ready to book your COVID-19 booster vaccine appointment. You can find the nearest vaccination provider to you through the Vaccine Clinic Finder. Make sure to tick the box for people without a Medicare card when you book your appointment. 

You need to bring a few documents along to your appointment, such as proof of your past COVID-19 vaccine and others that may have been administered overseas. This is to enable the healthcare professionals at your vaccine centre to record your previous medical history. Don’t forget your IHI, which will be used to track the details of your booster vaccine.

We hope that you’ve found this guide useful. Stay safe, and make sure to arrange your appointment as soon as possible!