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.

Eligible adults aged under 50 years will be offered the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can also be given to eligible adults aged under 50 years where the person has given informed consent based on an understanding of the risks and benefits of the vaccine.   

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.

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can be given to eligible adults aged under 50 years where the person has given informed consent based on an understanding of the risks and benefits of the vaccine.   

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.

Spikevax (Moderna) is approved for use in people aged 12 years and over. The TGA provisionally approved it for use in Australia on 9 August 2021 (for 18 years and over) and 3 September 2021 (for 12 years and over). In Australia's vaccine rollout, the Moderna vaccine is now available for people aged 12 years and over.

What's in the Moderna vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. This type of vaccine uses a genetic code called RNA to make your body's cells produce the coronavirus’ specific spike protein. Your immune system cells then recognise the spike protein as a threat and begin building an immune response against it. The RNA from the vaccine does not change your DNA in any way, and your body quickly breaks it down. The Moderna vaccine does not contain any live virus, and it cannot give you COVID-19. 

Dose schedule:

You need 2 doses of the Moderna vaccine, given at least 4 weeks apart. You may not be protected against COVID-19 until 14 days after your second dose. 

Comirnaty (Pfizer) is approved for use in people aged 5 years and over. The TGA provisionally approved Pfizer for use in Australia on 25 January 2021 (for 16 years and over), 22 July 2021 (for 12 years and over) and 5 December 2021 (for 5 years and over). The Pfizer vaccine is currently available for all people aged 5 years and over. Appointments for children aged 5 to 11 years start from 10 January.

Dose schedule:

People aged 12 years and older need 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, given between 3 and 6 weeks apart. Children aged 5 to 11 years need 2 doses of Pfizer for children (one third the adult dose), given 8 weeks apart unless advised by a medical professional. You may not be fully protected against COVID-19 until 7 to 14 days after your second dose. 

Find out more about booster doses for people aged 18 years and older and third doses for people aged 12 years and older with severe immunocompromise.

Healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 response are at higher risk of infection. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends people working in a healthcare setting consider receiving a booster dose.

Vaccine types for booster doses

The Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) vaccines are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and recommended by ATAGI as a COVID-19 booster dose. You can have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster dose regardless of which vaccine you had for your first 2 doses.

You can also receive the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine if you:

  • can’t have the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons
  • had 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine previously.

You don’t get to choose which vaccine you receive. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer are very safe and effective vaccines. Both protect you against becoming very sick if you get COVID-19.

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.

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?

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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