COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

Frequently asked questions for the Western Australian community about the COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccination rollout

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination?

The following people are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination:

  • adults aged 30-39 years who had appointments prior to 17 June 2021 should proceed with their booking. People who do not have a booking are encouraged to register on VaccinateWA. You will be contacted to make a booking when more supply of Pfizer vaccine becomes available from the Australian Government.
  • adults aged 40 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 years and over
  • adults with underlying medical conditions (including disabilities)
  • carers of adults and children with underlying medical conditions (external site)
  • essential outbound travellers with a travel exemption
  • critical and high-risk workers
  • health care, aged care, disability care workers and volunteers
  • quarantine and border workers, including household contacts
  • Pregnant women aged 16 and over.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to all eligible people under 60 years of age in WA Health run clinics.

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be provided to adults 60 and over in WA Health run clinics, GP Clinics, GP Respiratory Clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services.

For adults 60 years and over who have specific underlying medical conditions visit the Requests for alternative COVID-19 vaccine (external site) for details on how to apply for an alternative vaccine.

When will I be vaccinated?

People aged 40 years and over can book to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Visit VaccinateWA (external site)to book a vaccine appointment.

People aged 30-39 who do not have an existing booking are encouraged to register on VaccinateWA (external site). They will be contacted to make a booking when more supply of the Pfizer COVD-19 vaccine is available.

Who should have the vaccine?

All adults are recommended to have the vaccine once they are eligible. The vaccine program is being implemented in a phased approach with those most at risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19 and those at greater risk of becoming infected through their work and infecting others being offered the vaccine as a priority.

Will the vaccine be free?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccination will be free for everyone living in Australia.

Vaccination providers cannot charge you for the COVID-19 vaccine or your appointments to receive the vaccine.

Do I still need to follow COVID safe practices while the vaccine is rolled out?

Yes. It is important for everyone to continue to practise good hygiene, physical distancing and staying home if you are sick during the vaccine rollout. A COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect the Australian community. Read more about how to protect yourself from viruses.

Will people still need to enter quarantine for 14 days if they come into WA from overseas or interstate, and have been vaccinated?

Yes. Vaccination is not a complete substitute for other public health interventions. Testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation will remain in place until evidence is established about the degree to which the vaccination prevents transmission, and adequate community coverage is achieved in Australia. In Australia, mandatory quarantine with COVID-19 testing at regular intervals is still considered the best strategy for managing the potential public health risk posed by incoming travellers.

Do children have to get the vaccine?

At this stage, it has not been recommended that children under 16 years receive the vaccine. If this advice changes, they will be included in later phases of the vaccine roll out.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Which vaccines are currently approved for use in Australia?

There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines registered for use in Australia:

  • COMIRNATY developed by Pfizer and BioNTech
  • COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca developed by the University of Oxford in the UK.

Both have been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), meaning they have met rigorous standards for safety, quality and efficacy.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

Vaccination is not mandatory, and individuals can choose whether to get vaccinated. Everyone will be offered a vaccine and it is free. The Australian Government and WA Government strongly encourages people to get vaccinated. Doing so will help protect you, your family and the community.

COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory in the hotel quarantine system from Monday, 10 May 2021.

How do I book my vaccination appointment? 

Those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination can book an appointment from Perth metropolitan COVID-19 vaccination community clinics and a number of regional public hospital-based vaccination clinics.

It is recommended that people have their Medicare card on them when making the booking. Walk-ins are not recommended.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments can also be made with participating General Practices, GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services. These appointments can be made via the vaccine eligibility checker (external site) or contacting them directly. 

Employer invitation

Some workers may receive an invitation to book from their employers inviting you to register and create an account in VaccinateWA.

Should I receive the vaccine if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes, you should still receive the vaccine if you have previously been infected with COVID-19 because it is unknown how long protection against re-infection lasts.

If you have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19, you should talk to your healthcare provider about the best time to have a COVID-19 vaccination.

What proof of eligibility will I need to provide for my appointment?

All standard forms of identification (driver's licence, passport) will be accepted).

What proof of eligibility will I need to provide if I have an underlying medical condition?

For individuals attending their usual GP, the clinic’s records may be relied upon as evidence. Other forms of accepted evidence include:

  • My Health Record
  • A referral from GP or treating specialist
  • Alternative medical records, including:
    • a print-out of your medical history as recorded in your clinical records
    • a print-out of your chronic disease care plan
    • a discharge summary from a hospital or other medical facility, or
    • a valid script or medication prescribed to treat one or more of the relevant medical conditions.
  • Where none of these are available, individuals may complete a Phase 1B declaration form (external site).

Which vaccine will I receive?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COMIRNATY vaccine can be used for people aged over 16 and is specifically recommended for people aged under 60.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for people aged 60 and over.

You will be offered the suitable vaccine at the time of booking.

Both vaccines require 2 doses. You will receive the same vaccine for both dose 1 and dose 2.

If you have already received an AstraZeneca dose, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice is that it’s safe to receive a second AstraZeneca dose.

There are some rare cases in which individuals who are 60 years or over have certain medical conditions that prevent them from being able to have the AstraZeneca vaccine. Read more about the criteria and the process for applying to receive the Pfizer vaccine. 

Will I receive a proof of vaccination document or certificate?

If you have provided a valid email address when booking your vaccination, you will receive a confirmation email following your vaccination, which will contain relevant information about your vaccination, including brand, batch, dose etc. This email will also outline important aftercare information for you.

This email is not an official immunisation record. Australians can already access their immunisation history statement through Medicare for proof of vaccination, both digitally and in hard copy, if required.

Statements can be viewed on an individual’s Medicare online account or via the Medicare app.

Your immunisation history statement will record your COVID-19 vaccinations, following each dose.

What happens if I am unwell on the day of my appointment?

If you feel unwell on the day of your appointment, please ensure you cancel your booking. If you are feeling unwell and have any symptoms you should also go and get a COVID-19 test.

I am in quarantine, but have an appointment booked for a COVID-19 vaccination during this time. Can I still attend?

No – you are not permitted to leave quarantine or a self-quarantine premises to attend a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. If you have an appointment booked during this period, please reschedule your appointment by:

  • Logging into VaccinateWA for appointments at a state-run vaccination clinic or calling 13 COVID (13 26843), or
  • Contacting your GP or primary-care provider for appointments at participating GPs, pharmacies and respiratory clinics. 

Do I need to keep practising COVID-19 safe behaviours after I get the vaccine?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help to prevent you from getting seriously ill from the virus. However, if you do get COVID-19, you could still spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness. Therefore, it is important to continue practising good hygiene, physical distancing and other COVID safe practices after you get the vaccine.

Will the vaccination be required annually, like the influenza (flu) vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccines have only been available for several months, so it’s too early to know for sure how long protection will last. Evaluations are ongoing to answer this question and whether a 'booster' might be recommended at some point in the future.

COVID-19 vaccine doses and timing

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

Two doses of the vaccine are required. After you have received your first dose of the vaccine, you will be invited to book your second dose in the clinic.

If you have provided a valid email address, you will also receive a confirmation email after the event containing important information for your records. The email will also include details on how to book for your second dose if you have not made a booking in the clinic following your first dose.

What is the timing between the doses?

The timing between doses varies depending on which vaccine you receive:

Pfizer

The recommended interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 21 days. The minimum acceptable interval between the two doses is 19 days. If this isn’t possible, it is recommended to complete the two-dose course within 6 weeks.

If the interval between doses is less than 19 days, this may result in a lower immune response than you would have otherwise. However, it is not currently recommended that a vaccine dose is repeated if this occurs.

AstraZeneca

The recommended interval between two doses of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is 12 weeks. The minimum interval between doses is 4 weeks.

Shortening the interval from 12 weeks to no less than 4 weeks between doses is acceptable and may be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as a risk of COVID-19 exposure. If a dose has been given before the minimum 4-week interval, it is not currently recommended that the vaccine dose be repeated.

What happens if the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine is given late or is missed?

If the second dose of either the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) or the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is overdue, the 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 in line with the latest health advice.

Can I switch between brands for my first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

No. The two-dose course should be completed with the same vaccine. There is no data yet on the efficacy of mixed schedules. For further information, see page 15 of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) Clinical guidance on use of COVID-19 vaccine in Australia in 2021 (external site).

 
COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy/breastfeeding

Should women who are breastfeeding get vaccinated?

If you are breastfeeding, it is preferable for you to have the Pfizer (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccine. This is the preferred vaccine for adults aged under 60 years. You do not need to stop breastfeeding after vaccination.

For more information go to the  COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy (external site). This will be updated as more vaccines are registered for use in Australia.

Should women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy get vaccinated?

In line with guidance from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) it is recommended that pregnant women receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (Cominarty) (external site) at any stage of pregnancy. 

Pregnant women are encouraged to discuss the decision in relation to timing of vaccination with their health professional.

Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.

For more information read the Joint statement between RANZCOG and ATAGI about COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women (external site) and the COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy (external site).

I am pregnant and have had one dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Should I receive the same vaccine for my second dose?

Pregnant women should speak with their health care provider about the best choice for them. Providers and consumers may wish to consider:

  • There is a growing body of evidence supporting the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy
  • There are still very limited data on the safety of viral vector vaccines (such as COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca) in pregnancy
  • There is comparatively less data on the safety and efficacy of mixed vaccine schedules than completing the series with the same vaccine.

If you are pregnant and have previously received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, please email COVID.Immunisation@health.wa.gov.au for assistance.

COVID-19 vaccine and overseas travel

I'm travelling overseas, can I get a COVID-19 vaccination before I leave Australia?    

Australian citizens and permanent residents who have an Australian Border Force (external site) travel exemption iare able to access COVID-19 vaccinations. 

To be eligible, travel exemptions must be granted on or after 20 May 2021 for one of the following reasons:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
  • your travel is for your business or employer
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • you are travelling on compassionate or compelling grounds
  • you are travelling for urgent or unavoidable personal business
  • your travel is in the national interest.

If you have a travel exemption granted for eligible reasons before 20 May 2021, and have not left Australia, you can submit a new travel exemption request. Upload all relevant documents and state that you wish to be eligible for vaccination before travelling.

Apply for a travel exemption (external site)

You will not be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination if your outward travel exemption is granted for ‘compelling reasons for at least 3 months’

COVID-19 vaccines before your travel are not mandatory. You should follow expert health advice and access a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as practicable.   

I received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine overseas that’s not yet available in Australia. Which vaccine should I get for my second dose?

People returning to Australia from overseas who received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that is not available in Australia can be offered an alternative vaccine brand to complete their two doses.

The recommended interval to receive the second COVID-19 vaccine dose is 4 to 12 weeks after the first dose. If the second dose is overdue it should be given as soon as possible, but an additional dose of vaccine is not recommended.

Please email COVID.Immunisation@health.wa.gov.au for advice on which vaccine you should receive for your second dose.

How do I register a vaccine I received overseas?

You can register your vaccination on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) when you return to Australia. To register your vaccination in the AIR:

  • obtain proof of vaccination from your provider when you receive the vaccine
  • bring the proof of vaccination to Australia when you return. The proof must be translated to English if it’s in another language.
  • make sure your Medicare online account is up to date.
  • give the proof of vaccination along with your Medicare card to a recognised vaccination provider in Australia. They’ll verify your vaccination status and add the record of vaccination to the AIR.
COVID-19 vaccine safety

What is the latest information about the AstraZeneca vaccine?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends Pfizer (Comirnaty) as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to 59. 

The revised recommendation is based on recent data regarding thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) cases in Australia and a reassessment of current age-specific risks and benefits of vaccination. 

ATAGI continues to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 60 years and over.

The ATAGI advice is that those who have successfully received their first AstraZeneca vaccine, without any serious adverse effects, can safely receive their second vaccine, including adults under 60 years.

COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 60 years for whom Pfizer is not available, the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.

For further information on this ATAGI advice please view the COVID-19 vaccination – ATAGI Advice on the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine FAQs (external site).

Learn more about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine | Australian Government Department of Health (external site).

Weighing up the potential benefits against risk of harm from COVID-19 Vaccine Astrazeneca (external site).

The COVID-19 vaccines have been developed so quickly, how can we be sure they are safe?

All available vaccines undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are safe before being made available to people in Western Australia. The Australian Government is responsible for selecting and purchasing vaccines. Vaccines will only be available to Australians once proven safe and effective for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) (external site).

Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have been able to be developed faster than other vaccines because of several reasons:

  • a level of funding and commitment not seen before
  • the use of innovative technologies
  • researchers and vaccine manufacturers around the world working together to respond to the pandemic.

Some steps of the clinical development and assessment processes have been done at the same time, instead of one after the other, as is usually the case. This has reduced the time it takes to complete the work, without omitting important steps, and large clinical trials of the vaccines were able to progress as quickly as possible.

What is in the vaccine?

The Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) produced by the Therapeutic Goods Administration contains a full list of all vaccine ingredients. See the CMI for:

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. COVID-19 illness is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. None of the vaccines approved for use in Australia contain this virus, so they cannot cause COVID-19 illness. This means the COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you COVID-19.

Is the vaccine safe for those with chronic medical conditions and allergies?

Additional precaution may need to be taken for people with certain conditions, such as staying for 30 minutes of observation after having their vaccine or consulting an allergy specialist.

Tell your immunisation provider if you have had:

  • an allergic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to an ingredient of the vaccine
  • anaphylaxis to other vaccines or to other medicines. Your provider can check to ensure there are no common ingredients with the COVID-19 vaccine you are receiving
  • a mast cell disorder.

If you have a bleeding disorder or you are taking a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulant), tell your immunisation provider. Your provider can help determine whether it is safe for you to have an intramuscular injection and help to decide the best timing for injection.

People with chronic medical conditions or who are immunocompromised are recommeded to get the vaccine as they are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and will be prioritised for vaccination.

What about people who have had an allergic reaction to another vaccine or medication?

If you have had anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to one of its ingredients, then you should not have the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines may be given to people with a history of severe allergy or anaphylaxis to food, drugs, venom, or latex and those with allergic conditions, including asthma, eczema or hay fever. Additional precautions are currently recommended for persons with a history of anaphylaxis to previous vaccines and/or multiple drugs. Your immunisation provider will ask you about any potential allergies prior to vaccination and decide how best to manage your situation.

Are there any special vaccine safety concerns for immunocompromised patients?

No. None of the vaccines approved for use in Australia contain a live virus that can cause COVID-19. This means that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

In general, people with underlying chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and should be prioritised for vaccination. COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended for people who are immunocompromised because of their increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19.

For more information on use of the vaccine in immunocompromised see: COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for people with immunocompromised (external site).

If someone develops COVID-19 symptoms shortly after their vaccination, should they get tested for COVID-19?

None of the vaccines approved for use in Australia contain a live virus that can cause COVID-19. This means that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

Testing someone who develops symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue or muscle/joint aches within 2 days of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and where the symptoms last less than 2 days, is not always necessary.

If you develop the types of symptoms that are commonly reported a day or so after vaccination and you have NO respiratory symptoms (no cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose or loss of smell), it is more likely that you are having an expected response to the vaccine. You should call your doctor and ask for advice if you have any respiratory symptoms, are unsure, or think you might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Will I be protected from COVID-19 once I get the vaccine?

Making safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to all Australians is a key component of Australia’s strategy for protecting the community from COVID-19.

No vaccines offer total immunity but help to reduce the spread of infection and severity of illness if you are infected.

After you get the vaccine, it is important to continue practising good hygiene, physical distancing, and staying home if you're sick and getting tested for COVID-19.

Is one vaccine better than the other?

Providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in Australia is a priority for the Australian Government. The TGA assesses all COVID-19 vaccines before they can be used in Australia.

Both vaccines approved by the TGA have been proven to be safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 illness, including severe disease.

What are the possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Will I feel unwell after vaccination?

All vaccines can cause side effects. Usually these are mild. You may experience minor side effects following vaccination. Most side effects last no more than a couple of days and you will recover without any problems.

Just over half the people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine in Western Australia report experiencing some symptoms when contacted by SMS 3 days after vaccination. The most common side effects after COVID-19 vaccination are usually mild and include:

  • pain, redness and/or swelling where you received the needle
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • muscle and/or joint ache
  • mild fever.

When they occur, these symptoms typically start within 24 hours of vaccination, last 1 to 2 days, and go away without treatment.

These types of reactions are often a sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and helping to teach your body how to fight off COVID-19 if you are later exposed to the virus.

Serious reactions like allergic reactions are extremely rare.

You should seek medical attention after vaccination if:

You think you are having an allergic reaction. Call 000 if you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, a fast heartbeat or collapsing.

You have an expected side effect of the vaccine which has not gone away after a few days.

You have any of the following symptoms, particularly around 4 to 28 days after vaccination:

  • severe, persistent headaches that are different to your "usual" headaches and do not settle with paracetamol or other painkillers
  • blurred vision
  • weakness of face or limbs
  • confusion or seizure.
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • leg swelling
  • pin-prick rash or bruising not at the injection site that cannot be explained.

Significant and unexpected reactions should be reported to the Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS). Your immunisation provider should report all suspected significant reactions, but you can also do it yourself on the SAFEVAC Reporting website (external site).

Further information on TTS can be found at Patient information on AstraZeneca vaccine and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (external site)

For more information visit the Australian Government website (external site).

What are the symptoms of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)?

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is very rare and occurs around 4-28 days after vaccination.

Symptoms can include abdominal pain and/or severe headache that does not settle with pain relief.

People should seek medical attention immediately if they experience these symptoms:

  • a severe persistent headache with additional features:
    • appears at least 4 days after vaccination
    • does not improve with simple painkillers
    • may be worse when lying down or accompanied by nausea and vomiting
  • neurological symptoms such as:
    • blurred vision
    • difficulty with speech
    • drowsiness
    • seizures 
  • shortness of breath or chest pain
  • a swollen leg
  • persistent abdominal (belly) pain
  • tiny blood spots under the skin away from the site of injection together with symptoms above.

If you believe your reaction is severe or life-threatening you should call triple zero (000) for an ambulance or go to your closest emergency department.

Significant and unexpected reactions should be reported to the Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS). Your immunisation provider should report all suspected significant reactions, but you can also do it yourself on the SAFEVAC Reporting website (external site).

Further information on TTS can be found at Patient information on AstraZeneca vaccine and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (external site)

For more information visit the Australian Government website (external site)

Should you take blood thinning medication (such as Aspirin) before having the AstraZeneca vaccine?

It is not recommended to take over the counter medicine before receiving a vaccination for the purpose of preventing potential side effects.

You should continue to take prescribed medication unless advised by your medical practitioner.

Always discuss any existing medical conditions with your GP or immunisation provider before you get any vaccine.

What happens if I have an allergic reaction to my first dose of vaccine? Will I be able to complete the 2-dose series with a different brand of COVID-19 vaccine?

It is uncommon for people to have anaphylaxis or a serious allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, however if you did experience a serious allergic reaction to the first dose of COVID19 vaccination you should be referred to a specialist Immunology or Vaccination clinic for further assessment. Decisions around second dose should be dependent upon that discussion.

The specialist may recommend an alternate brand for the second dose. If an alternate brand is used for the second dose, a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be given.

ATAGI advises that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are not considered interchangeable, and that the two-dose course should usually be completed with the same vaccine, as currently there is insufficient data on the efficacy of mixed schedules. Your doctor may recommend you proceed with the same brand for the second dose and for vaccination to be undertaken in a medically supervised environment if your reaction was not severe.

Can I shed COVID-19 virus following a vaccination?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia are ‘live virus’ vaccines so it is impossible for people who are vaccinated to ‘shed’ the virus.

COVID-19 vaccine efficacy

Is the vaccine effective?

Clinical trial and real-world experience for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and COMIRNATY have shown they are proving safe and effective in preventing symptomatic illness including severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalisation.

How will a vaccine prevent COVID-19?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spikes of protein on each viral particle. These spike proteins allow the virus to attach to cells and cause disease.

The vaccines help the body to 'recognise' these spike proteins as foreign and latch onto them. This can prevent the virus from entering human cells and lower their chances of getting COVID-19 illness if they encounter the coronavirus.

Is the purpose of the vaccine to prevent community transmission, or reduce symptoms?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help to prevent you from getting seriously ill. If you do contract COVID-19, you could still spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness.

Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to prevent even mild or asymptomatic illness and keep vaccinated people from spreading the virus.

How long does the protection from the vaccine last?

At this stage, there isn’t enough information to know for sure how long protection against COVID-19 will last. This is why it’s still important to continue practising good hygiene, physical distancing and other COVID-safe recommendations, after you have been vaccinated.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration will continue to monitor the ongoing efforts to establish how well the vaccines protect over time.

Will the vaccines be effective against the UK and South African strains?

Laboratory tests are showing that the COVID-19 vaccines induce antibodies that are likely to be able to respond to most changes in the virus' spike protein that have been identified to date. Australia will continue to closely monitor international developments regarding COVID-19 variants of concern and will continue to perform careful genetic examination of the virus found in local cases.

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 vaccines

Should I get an influenza (flu) vaccine as well as a COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against influenza, so you should still have an influenza vaccine. To provide greater protection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimise the possibility of contracting both influenza and COVID-19 infection at the same time, it is recommended to get the influenza vaccine in readiness for the winter influenza season.

It is recommended that the influenza vaccine is administered 7 days before or after receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

When booking in to receive a COVID-19 or influenza vaccine, please ensure there is an interval of 7 days between receiving each vaccine. This should be discussed with the immunisation provider before attending a vaccine appointment to avoid being refused a vaccination at the appointment.

Read more detailed guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccination (external site).

Can I have the influenza (flu) vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Getting an influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. It is best to wait at least 7 days between receiving a dose of seasonal influenza vaccine and a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, there are circumstances when a shorter interval between a dose of influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine (I.e. less than 7 days, including co-administration) may be justified, such as:

  • if the preferred minimum interval (7 days) will likely lead to an individual missing the opportunity to receive either of the vaccine doses.
  • if there is an urgent need to administer either of these vaccines because of the requirement for protection from influenza or COVID-19 in the local environment.

This should be discussed with the immunisation provider before attending a vaccine appointment to avoid being refused a vaccination at the appointment.

Read more detailed guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccination (external site).

Should I receive the COVID-19 vaccine before the influenza vaccine?

There is no specific recommendation regarding the order of receiving an influenza vaccine and either dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more detailed guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccination (external site).

COVID-19 vaccine suppliers

AstraZeneca

Who developed AstraZeneca?

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is developed by The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom.

How many doses of the vaccine is needed?

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses.

What is the timeframe between first and second doses?

The two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are given between 10 and 12 weeks apart.

Is it safe?

Australians should be confident that AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine meets the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s high safety and quality standards.

Who is it recommended for?

  • The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is preferred for adults 60 years and over
  • The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can be used in adults aged 60 years and over ­– where the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits
  • Anyone who has already had one dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should have their second dose of that vaccine, as different vaccines cannot be mixed.

How effective is it?

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective at preventing severe disease. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is about 62-70% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19, based on information from clinical trial results.

Pfizer

Who developed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech.

What is in the vaccine?

Pfizer vaccine contains the mRNA and other substances to stabilize the vaccine: such as Distearoylphosphatidylcholine, cholesterol, potassium chloride, Monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, Sucrose and water for injections.

How many doses of the vaccine is needed?

Pfizer vaccine requires 2 doses.

What is the timeframe between first and second doses?

The two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are given between 3 and 6 weeks apart.

Is it safe?

Australians should be confident that Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine meets the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s high safety and quality standards.

Who is it recommended for?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is preferred for adults aged under 60 years.

How effective is it?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective at preventing severe disease. It is about 95% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19, based on initial clinical trial results.

Source: Information on COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and Information COVID-19 Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine mythbusters

Read the COVID-19 vaccine mythbusters and FAQs for Aboriginal people (PDF 528KB).

Some social media posts say the vaccine isn’t safe, is this true?

As with anything regarding your health you should listen to the advice of health professionals and other trusted sources.

Health professionals are updated with the latest information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we should continue to listen to their advice.

If you have concerns or questions about the vaccine, discuss them with your doctor and make sure you get your information from trusted sources including health.wa.gov.au, HealthyWA and Australian Government website (external site).

Are Aboriginal people being used as guinea pigs for the vaccine?

Aboriginal people are not the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. Over a billion people across the world have already received the vaccine safely.

COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary. The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended to protect yourself, Elders and community.

Are Aboriginal people being told to get the vaccine before everyone else?

All Australians will have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that is appropriate for them when available. The highest priority groups are eligible to get their vaccines first, including at-risk front-line health care workers, quarantine and border workers, those living and working in aged and disability residential care facilities and Aboriginal people.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine killing Aboriginal people or making them sick?

Some people may experience mild and temporary side effects after vaccination such as tiredness, muscle soreness and redness around the injection site and mild fever. This is normal for any vaccine and there is no evidence that Aboriginal people react worse to the vaccine than others.

Serious reactions from the vaccine are extremely rare. Recent serious side effects of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine are being closely monitored by the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

Will the vaccine alter my DNA?

The vaccine does not change DNA.

Both vaccines work by getting cells to make the COVID-19 specific spike protein. Immune cells recognise the protein as foreign and this triggers the immune system to make antibodies that can target and destroy the virus.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine implant a microchip to track movements?

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain a tracking microchip and there is no evidence or data to support this. Microchips are too large to be administered through needle injection.

It is best to receive your information from trusted sources including health.wa.gov.au and HealthyWA.

Only old people get or die from COVID, so why should I get the vaccine?

Anyone can get COVID-19 and it remains a major risk around the world. The elderly and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are most at risk of serious COVID-19 infections.

Even if you are not an older person, you should still get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the appropriate vaccine for your age group, when you become eligible. The vaccine will strengthen your immune system by training it to recognise and fight the COVID-19 virus before it makes you very sick and minimises the chances of passing it to others.

Protecting those most at risk from COVID-19 and reducing the impact of the virus, including Elders, older persons and people with pre-existing medical conditions, continues to be a priority.

More information

COVID-19 vaccines – Is it true? | Australian Government Department of Health (external site)

Last reviewed: 30-07-2021

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

vaccine vial above the text 'vaccine eligibility checker'