About the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine will be recorded on the Australia Immunisation Record (AIR). This is a national register that records vaccines given to all people in Australia.

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered via an intramuscular (IM) injection. The recommended injection site is the deltoid (upper arm).

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a harmless piece of the “spike protein” for SARS-CoV-2. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions (the mRNA) and gets rid of them. Cells display this piece of spike protein on their surface, and an immune response is triggered inside our bodies. This produces antibodies to protect us from getting infected if the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters our bodies.

This information from the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) provides an excellent overview of the COVID-19 vaccines in development, including the mRNA vaccines.

Yes. ATAGI has recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine remains safe to be given to people aged 50 years and over.

The individual benefit-to-risk balance of vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine varies with age.

There is evidence of a likely link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and an extremely rare blood clotting syndrome (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia).

This balance is based on factors including the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age and the potential lower risk of the very rare, but serious, adverse event with increasing age.

If you have had your first vaccine dose without the extremely rare blood clotting syndrome (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia) or other serious adverse effects, you should receive your second dose as planned.

If you have recently had your first vaccine dose and are experiencing any side effects that you are worried about, please book an appointment to see your doctor.

If you are an adult aged under 50 years, you should only receive a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine where the benefit of receiving the vaccine clearly outweighs the risk in your individual circumstance. You may wish to discuss your individual benefit-to-risk balance with your doctor.

Generally, if you have not already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, then the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is preferred in adults aged under 50 years.

Information about how to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available on the Department of Health website shortly.

If you are 50 years of age or older, you can still receive your AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
With two doses spaced by 12 weeks you are 80 percent less likely to get COVID-19 and more than 90 percent less likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19 than if you do not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed based on the availability of doses. You don’t get to choose which vaccine you receive. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer are very safe and effective vaccines. Both protect you against getting COVID-19 and against getting very sick if you do get COVID-19.

Prioritisation of the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccines become available in phases, with priority groups receiving the first doses. The Commonwealth Government has identified priority groups using public health, medical and epidemiological evidence on who would be most affected if they contracted COVID-19, and those most likely to be exposed.

Phase 1a includes quarantine and border workers, frontline health care workers working in COVID testing sites, COVID wards, Intensive Care Units, Emergency Departments, aged care and disability care staff, paramedics, GPs and aged care and disability care residents.

Phase 1b includes elderly adults aged 70 years and older, remaining health care workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years or older, younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability, and critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

Phase 2a includes adults aged 50-69 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-54 and other critical and high-risk workers.

Phase 2b includes balance of adult population and catch up any unvaccinated Australians from previous phases.

The priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination have been established by the Australian Government. Phase 1a includes frontline healthcare worker sub-groups for prioritisation and aged care and disability care staff.

This will include frontline healthcare workers who work in any of the identified high-risk areas such as COVID wards, Emergency Departments and Specialist Wards that manage COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 patients. Phase 1a will including casual bank, pool and clinical support staff such as security and PSAs that have interaction with these areas.

The prioritisation of when staff receive the vaccine is initially based on the risk of being exposed to the virus. Therefore this cohort of health care staff will have the vaccine based on where they work and the priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination established by Australian Government. All health care staff are either in Phase 1a or 1b. Non-healthcare workers with chronic health problems also get vaccinated in Phase 1b.

For the purposes of vaccination, students will be managed and offered the COVID-19 vaccine like clinical staff.

Side effects

Scarring at the vaccination site, such as was commonly associated with the smallpox vaccine, is not a reported side effect of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

As part of regulatory assessment, the Therapeutic Goods Administration considers information about possible side effects. For a vaccine to be registered for use in Australia, the benefits must outweigh the risks. All vaccines can cause side effects. Usually any side effects are mild and temporary.

Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines have reported temporary side effects typical of vaccines, such as pain or redness at the injection site, as well as mild to moderate fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches and chills. These side effects may be more common after the second dose.

A small number of people may have more severe side effects – defined as side effects affecting a person’s ability to do their normal daily activities. These side effects usually only last a day or two after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Monitoring of vaccine-related side effects will continue after a COVID-19 vaccine has been registered.

It is possible that after receiving the vaccine that you will get some COVID-19-type symptoms, particularly after the second dose.

If you just have pain or redness at the injection site, then you are able to work.

If you have a fever, temperature, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, chills or any other symptoms that are listed on the attestation in the 1-2 days after having the vaccine then it is most likely a side-effect. However while you have symptoms you should not come to work. A protocol has been developed to help with decision-making.

If you have any COVID-19-type symptoms that subside within 24 hours following receiving the vaccine, then you are able to safely return to work. If the symptoms do not subside after 24 hours or your symptoms start to include respiratory type symptoms (including cough, sore throat and runny nose), then please remain at home and get a COVID test.

Safety

Any COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia will be safe and effective. Before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in Australia, it must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) rigorous assessment and approval processes. This includes assessment of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness. There are no microchips or similar technologies in the vaccines.

We are currently investigating potential support service options for staff who have concerns relating to the vaccine, or those that have had issues with previous vaccinations (including allergic reactions, adverse events, fainting etc) ahead of their vaccination to ensure it is undertaken in a planned, safe and controlled manner.

The risks associated with a serious event occurring after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly low. However to be safe, everybody that receives a COVID vaccine will be monitored in an observation areas for at least 15 minutes after receiving their dose.

The Vaccination Hub and Sub-Hubs will be fully equipped with emergency equipment and medications, and will have a medical officer and experienced nurse immunisers on site. Detailed medical emergency protocols will also be in place to ensure that a rapid response is enacted when required.

Timing of doses

Currently, COVID-19 vaccines have not been assessed in clinical trials when co-administered with other vaccines, hence they should be administered alone. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends a minimum 14 days between administration of a COVID-19 vaccine and the seasonal influenza vaccine.

There are no current clinical trial data assessing the interchangeability of different vaccines and hence the same brand of vaccine should be given for both the first and second dose. It is too early to determine if and when a subsequent booster dose will be required and hence, the interchangeability of booster doses is still unknown.

Vaccination invitation and registration will be managed through the state-wide COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS), and you will book in for your first and second dose at the same time. A reminder of the requirement for the second dose will be automated to vaccine recipients through this system, reducing the risk of missing the second dose.

Effectiveness

The COVID-19 vaccines being administered or considered for administration in Australia all require a two-dose regime either 21 or 28 days apart.

Data regarding the length of protection following vaccination is still being gathered from clinical trials. The length of protection is still unclear and hence the timing and need for a booster has not been established. Currently, no additional doses beyond the first two are recommended at this time. It is possible that booster doses may be required in the future.

Your choice whether to have the vaccine

No, it is not mandatory for any staff member to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes new appointments or existing employees). When the invite to register for COVID-19 vaccination is received, staff may choose to either make a booking or to decline by following the instructions in the invitation.

Nothing will happen. Your decision to decline the vaccine will be recorded so you do not receive further invitations to receive the vaccine.

Yes, staff will decline the COVID-19 vaccine via the state-wide COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) when they receive the invitation to register vaccination.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Currently, there is limited safety data available on the administration of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant. While studies have not yet been conducted in this patient group, based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are highly unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore cannot give someone COVID-19.

The USA’s Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states that “People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, such as healthcare personnel, may choose to be vaccinated.”

There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant.

Vaccine resources

How safe is the vaccine? - video

How does a vaccine work? - video

Resources for people with disabilities 

Information for people with disability about COVID-19 vaccines can be found here.


Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about COVID-19 vaccines can be found here.


The following links provide information about the vaccine rollout across Australia:

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