About the COVID-19 vaccine
No, it is not mandatory to get a COVID-19 vaccine. While the Australian Government strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination, individuals can choose not to be vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary, universal and free.
No, you will not be able to choose which COVID-19 vaccine you are offered.
As initial supplies of vaccines are limited, whichever vaccine is available will be first offered to people with the highest risk of getting, spreading or having severe illness from COVID-19 and then more broadly to people of eligible age in the rest of the community (i.e. aged 16 or older for Comirnaty, and aged 18 or older for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).
• COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is a COVID-19 vaccine developed by The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
• It contains the genetic code for an important part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus called the spike protein that is carried into your cells by a harmless common cold ‘carrier’ virus (an adenovirus).
• Your body then makes and uses the spike protein to learn to recognise and fight against the virus (SARS-CoV-2).
• The carrier adenovirus has been modified so that it cannot spread to other cells and cause infection. For this reason, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca does not behave like a ‘live vaccine’.
• The number and timing of doses will vary between different COVID-19 vaccines and you should follow the guidance of your immunisation provider.
• The AstraZeneca/University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine also requires two doses, given around 12 weeks apart (or as short as 4 weeks apart, if necessary).
• If the second dose of either Comirnaty or COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is overdue (i.e. past the preferred interval), that second dose should be given as soon as possible.
• A single dose is likely to only provide short-term protection. The second dose will be effective regardless of how late it is given. Even if the second dose is late, no vaccine doses need to be repeated.
• Additional or booster doses beyond the two-dose course are not currently recommended.
• The need for any additional doses will be reviewed over time.
• On the basis of information from clinical trials, Comirnaty (developed by Pfizer/BioNTech) is about 95% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19 and COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is about 62–70% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19.
• Preliminary results from a study of the vaccine program in Scotland, where both Comirnaty and COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are being used, suggest that both vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19. People who were given Comirnaty were around 85% less likely to need to go to hospital if they developed COVID-19. People who received COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca were around 94% less likely to need to go to hospital if they developed COVID-19. Both vaccines also appeared to be effective in older adults aged ≥80 years. These are early results and still need to be reviewed by researchers.
• After a single dose of a Comirnaty, people were around 57–61% less likely to get sick from COVID-19. After a single dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, people were around 60–73% less likely to get sick from COVID-19.
• More information about the effectiveness of both vaccines will become available over time.
• As clinical trials are ongoing, and people have only started to be vaccinated in some other countries since around December 2020, we do not yet know how long immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine will last.
• More information about the duration of protection will be gathered over the coming months.
• Refer to the preparing for COVID-19 vaccination guide on what to do before your vaccination. This provides information on what you should do before your COVID-19 vaccination as well as what to expect at your appointment.
• Refer to the after your COVID-19 vaccination guide for information on what to do after your vaccination. This provides a list of common side effects and what to do in the event of a side effect.
• You cannot get COVID-19 from a COVID-19 vaccine.
• To get COVID-19, a live virus that can multiply in your body has to infect you. No vaccine supplied currently in the world contains live coronavirus.
• All vaccines can cause side effects. Usually these are mild.
• Comirnaty (Pfizer) is generally well tolerated and most side effects are mild and short-lived. COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can also cause side effects that are usually mild to moderate, appear within the first day after vaccination and generally go away within a few days.
• The most common side effects for both vaccines include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. These side effects are temporary and go away without treatment in 1–2 days.
• Refer to the ”After Your COVID-19 Vaccination Guide” for information on common and less common side effects.
• Your immunisation provider will tell you about the common symptoms you may experience after your COVID-19 vaccine. These may include pain, redness or swelling at the site of your injection. It may also include some general side effects such as tiredness, headache or fever. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with side effects like pain, headache or fever.
• You should seek urgent medical assistance (e.g. by calling 000) if you think you are having a severe allergic reaction, such as if you are experiencing difficulty breathing, hives, lip swelling or feeling faint.
• You should seek advice from your usual healthcare provider (e.g. GP) if you have any side effects that you are concerned about, or if your side effects have not gone away after a few days.
• You can report potential side effects after vaccination to your state or territory health authority, or directly to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Your healthcare provider can make the report for you if you wish. This will help the TGA collect information about adverse effects that occur after COVID-19 vaccination and detect any possible unexpected safety signals.
It is not yet known to what extent COVID-19 vaccines protect against transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at the individual or population level. This means that although a fully vaccinated person will obtain strong protection against becoming ill with COVID-19, it is possible they may still get infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and pass it on to others, even if they do not have any symptoms. This is also true for other vaccine preventable diseases (including influenza, pertussis and rotavirus) and does not necessarily mean that vaccines will not be highly effective in reducing the impact of COVID-19. It will take time to gain more data to answer these questions.
To prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2, it is essential to continue practising COVID-19 prevention measures like physical distancing, hand washing, wearing a face mask, COVID-19 testing and quarantine or isolation as required.
All immunisation providers are encouraged to report adverse events following immunisation (AEFIs). Providers practising in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory or ACT are required under public health legislation to report AEFIs to their state or territory health department. Members of the general public can also report AEFIs.
Mild, short-lived symptoms which are expected following vaccination do not need to be reported. There are multiple ways to report an AEFI:
• Report to local state or territory health department.
• Providers and recipients can report to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
Reports can be made via online form, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by
phone (1800 020 653).
• Providers and recipients can report to the NPS MedicineWise Adverse Medicine Events
line on 1300 134 237 (9am–5pm Monday–Friday).
Visit www.tga.gov.au/reporting-problems for further details.