COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

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

AstraZeneca vaccine update

As of 8 April 2021, the Australian Technical Advisory Group (external site) on Immunisation recommends:

  • the Pfizer vaccine is preferred for adults aged under 50 years
  • COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 50 years ­– 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
  • people who have had the first dose of AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 50 years. 
COVID-19 vaccination rollout

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Australian Government is responsible for specifying priority populations, drawing on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

Identified priority groups (external site) will be offered the first doses, such as people most at risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19 and those at greater risk of infecting others through their work.

More people will have access to the vaccine as more doses become available.

When will the vaccines be made available?

The WA COVID-19 vaccination program began on 22 February 2021 and is being rolled out in phases because of the limited supply of vaccine deemed safe and effective by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) (external site).

The vaccination program will expand as more vaccine becomes available and all Australians are expected to be offered the vaccination this year.

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.

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.

When will I be vaccinated?

Use the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker (external site) to see if you’re eligible to be vaccinated, and book your appointment.

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:

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

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.

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

You should still receive the vaccine even if you have had a previous COVID-19 infection as you may have some level of immunity, but this varies and may not last long. The vaccine has been designed specifically to give reliable, lasting immunity, however we are yet to determine how long it offers protection.

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).

Should women who are breastfeeding get vaccinated?

If you are breastfeeding, you can safely receive the Pfizer/COMIRNATY or AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or 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?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not routinely recommended in pregnancy. However, you may wish to consider getting vaccinated while pregnant if the potential benefits outweigh any theoretical risks. Specifically, you may wish to discuss having the COVID-19 vaccine during your pregnancy with your doctor if:

  • you have medical risk factors for severe COVID-19

    AND

  • you are at high risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

You may wish to wait until after you have delivered to be vaccinated if:

  • you have no risk factors for severe COVID-19
    OR
  • you are not at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

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.

Which vaccine will I receive?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COMIRNATY vaccine can be used for all, and is specifically recommended for people aged under 50.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended by people aged 50 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.

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

Two doses of the vaccine are required. When you have received your first dose of the vaccine, you will 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.

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

  • the two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are given between 3 and 6 weeks apart
  • the two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are given between 10 and 12 weeks apart.

What happens if I don’t get the second dose?

All people should receive a second dose of vaccine to achieve maximum and longer lasting protection.

Your body should develop an immune response approximately 2 weeks after the first dose, but you may only be partially protected and the length of time you are protected may be shorter compared to people who receive 2 doses.

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

No. In general you should receive the same vaccine brand for both doses.

Will I receive a proof of vaccination document or certificate?

Following your vaccination, you will receive a confirmation email 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 (external site) 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.

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 safety

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?

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

There are currently no special safety concerns for any of the COVID-19 registered vaccines in Australia for people who are immunocompromised.

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.

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.

About a third of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to date 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 resolve 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. If you have a reaction that is unexpected, or if you are unsure, consult with your GP.

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).

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

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?

Maybe. But before proceeding it will be important for your individual situation to be considered by a doctor who specialises in allergic reactions.

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 keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

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 delayed for 14 days before or after receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

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 14 days between receiving a dose of seasonal influenza vaccine and a dose of the 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.

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?

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.

How effective is it?

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: NCIRS | Commonwealth FAQs | WHO FAQs | US CDC FAQs

COVID-19 vaccine mythbusters

Read the COVID-19 vaccines mythbusters and frequently asked questions.

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. Tens of millions of 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?

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines will become available in phases.

Priority groups have been identified for the first phases, including people that would be at a higher risk of serious illness if they contracted COVID-19, and those most likely to be exposed to it.

Phase 1a is well underway for our quarantine and border workers, frontline health care workers and aged care and disability care staff and residents.

The Australian Government is increasing access to the COVID-19 vaccine via general practices, Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services and GP-led respiratory clinics for people within Phase 1B, which includes:

  • adults aged 70 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 55
  • adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability
  • other health care workers
  • critical and high risk workers.

All people who live in remote communities will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine at the same time, regardless of which phase they may be in.

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

The COVID-19 vaccine has not caused increased death rates in other communities where it has been widely used and there is no evidence that Aboriginal people react worse to the vaccine than others.

Some people may experience mild side effects after getting vaccination such as tiredness, muscle soreness and redness around the injection site and mild fever. This is normal for any vaccine.

Serious reactions from the vaccine are extremely rare and may occur within 15 minutes, therefore you must stay with the nurse for 15 minutes (or longer if needed) after receiving the vaccine.

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.

This conspiracy theory/rumour has been circulated across social media platforms, to create a fear of technology and a mistrust of governments.

Rumours like these can cause mass scepticism of vaccines. 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. The elderly and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are most at risk of serious COVID-19 infections.

Luckily, thanks to the hard work in our communities, numbers have been very low for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with no deaths. However, there have still been approx. 150 cases so far and a vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect people against serious illness from COVID-19.

Just like the flu, it is important to get vaccinated to protect yourself, family, our vulnerable and our community.

Even if you are not an older person, you should still get vaccinated against COVID-19. 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 pass it onto others.

Last reviewed: 09-04-2021

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.

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