COVID-19 vaccine FAQs

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

COVID-19 vaccines

Which vaccines are currently approved for use in Australia?

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

All COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia have been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), meaning they have met rigorous standards for safety, quality and efficacy.

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:

Are the vaccines haram?

No. The Australian Fatwa Council declared the COVID-19 vaccines permissible according to Islamic law in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine Fatwa (Islamic Verdict) (PDF 611KB) (external site)

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination?

Everyone aged 12 years and over is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the vaccine be free?

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

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

Is the vaccine mandatory?

Vaccination is only mandatory for people working in specified occupations. Everyone will be offered a vaccine and they are free. The Australian Government and WA Government strongly encourage people to get vaccinated. Doing so will help protect you, your family and the community.

You are encouraged to speak to your employer about whether the vaccine is mandated in your workplace.

For further information on the Directions for mandatory vaccination and exemption information please visit the Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for WA workforces (external site) and the COVID-19 Emergency Directions webpage (external site).

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccination?

There are many locations across WA where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine. These include state-run community vaccination clinics, GPs, pharmacies, GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services.

You can receive a COVID-19 vaccination without an appointment at state-run community vaccination clinics. To find your closest clinic where you can drop-in, view the list of COVID-19 vaccination community clinics.

You are encouraged to make a booking to secure a convenient time. People with a booking will be prioritised to receive vaccine close to their booking time.

People can also make a booking at participating GPs, pharmacies, respiratory GP clinics or Aboriginal Medical Services by visiting the COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder (external site).

How do I book my vaccination appointment?

For instructions on how to register and book online through VaccinateWA and how to book a child or dependant under your account please see the VaccinateWA frequently asked questions.

It is recommended that people have their Medicare card on them when making the booking.

Do I need a Medicare card to book my vaccination appointment?

No, a Medicare card is not required to receive a vaccine.

Some vaccination clinics are offering vaccinations without an appointment, please see the metropolitan and regional clinic lists for details.

If you have a Medicare card, it is recommended you have that with you when you make a booking.

Will you share the information I give you with anyone else?

Your information will only be shared with the Australian Immunisation Register so that you can get your vaccination certificate - we are not allowed to share it with anyone else. Please see our Privacy Policy (external site) for information on how we use your information.

Who is allowed to go to a state vaccination clinic or GP or Pharmacy?

Anyone can visit any of these places for a vaccination. You should go to the most convenient place for you.

How do I get language help?

To access language help please complete the COVID-19 vaccination: Further assistance required form (external site). You or someone else can request help online or by calling 13COVID (13 268 43).

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.

Which vaccine will I receive?

  • People aged 12 years and over are eligible to receive the Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines. The Moderna vaccine is currently available through participating community pharmacies through the Vaccine Clinic Finder (external site).
  • People aged 60 years and over are also eligible to receive the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine (in addition to the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines).

How can I show proof of my COVID-19 vaccinations?

There are two ways to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccinations:

Visit Services Australia website How to get proof of your COVID-19 vaccine website (external site) for detailed guidance on getting proof of your COVID-19 vaccinations if:

  • you are not eligible for Medicare
  • cannot get your proof online, or
  • have received an overseas vaccination

If you have provided a valid email address when booking your vaccination, you will receive a confirmation email following your vaccination. This 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.

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.

COVID-19 vaccine doses and timing

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

Two doses of the vaccine are required for most people as part of the primary course.

An additional booster dose is recommended for adults, particularly those in high-risk groups, six months or more after the second dose to maintain optimum protection.

For more information, see ATAGI recommendations on the use of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine (external site).

Severely immunocompromised people aged 12 and over are strongly encouraged to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary course of COVID-19 vaccination. The recommended interval is 2-6 months after the second dose of vaccine. This third dose is to bring immunity up to the level as the general COVID-vaccinated population.

For more information, see ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised (external site).

What is the timing between the doses?

Recommended intervals between doses are:

  • Comirnaty (Pfizer):21-42 days (or 3-6 weeks)
  • Spikevax (Moderna): 28-42 days (4-6 weeks)
  • Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca):12 weeks

For people who are severely immunocompromised, the recommended interval for the third dose is 2 to 6 months after the second dose of vaccine.

The recommended interval for booster doses is six months or more after receiving the second dose.

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

If the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine 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.

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?

It is recommended people have the same vaccine brand for the first and second dose.

However, an alternative vaccine can be offered for the second dose in some circumstances, including:

  • Severe side effects after the first dose - there are medical contraindications or precautions to a vaccine,
  • Overseas vaccines - the original vaccine is not available in Australia,
  • Lack of access - a person is unable to access a particular vaccine

If you have questions about switching brands between your first and second dose of COVID vaccine you should discuss it with your health care provider.

For further information, see COVID-19 vaccination – ATAGI Clinical advice on the use of a different COVID-19 vaccine as the second dose (external site).

I have a health condition which causes me to be severely immunocompromised, how do I get a third dose?

ATAGI has outlined specific criteria on who is considered severely immunocompromised and recommended for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The criteria can be found on ATAGI’s website (external site).

The best approach is to discuss this with your GP or treating specialist who best understands your health history.

For people wanting to receive a third dose at a State-run community vaccination clinic, you cannot book an appointment through VaccinateWA and must register in-person at a clinic. You can provide your proof of eligibility (i.e. the immunocompromised condition) at the clinic.

Evidence can include a:

  • letter from your doctor
  • medical record print out (e.g. MyHealth Record, hospital discharge summary, care plan, prescription etc.
  • condition-specific identifier, or
  • signed Eligibility Declaration Form (external site) if you cannot provide the specified evidence of your eligibility. You can print and bring a signed copy of this form to the clinic, or these forms will be available to complete when you register at the clinic.
COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy/breastfeeding

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

Yes. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) recommended that pregnant women of all ages receive the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines at any stage of pregnancy.

Pregnant women are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination with these mRNA vaccines and 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.

Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness if they are infected with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19 of the same age. There is also an increased risk of complications for the baby during pregnancy.

This includes an increased risk of:

  • hospitalisation
  • admission to an intensive care unit
  • invasive ventilation
  • stillbirth, and
  • premature birth.

For more information read the  RANZOG advice on Pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccination (external site)COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy (external site) and the ATAGI Clinical Guidance on COVID-19 vaccines in Australia (external site)

Should women who are breastfeeding get vaccinated?

Yes. If you are breastfeeding, it is preferable for you to have an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines). The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are the preferred vaccines for people 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) and the RANZOG advice on Pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccination (external site). This will be updated as more vaccines are registered for use in Australia.

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 who received a first dose of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine can receive either an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines) or the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine for their second dose, although an mRNA vaccine is preferred.

COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents

Can children and adolescents get the COVID-19 vaccine?

All Western Australians aged 12 years and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Children aged under 12 are not currently eligible to be vaccinated.

Which vaccines are being offered to children and adolescents?

The Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines are currently being offered to all Western Australians aged over 12 years.

Two doses of the vaccines are required for optimal protection. The two doses are given at least 3-6 weeks apart for the Pfizer and 4-6 weeks apart for Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine is not recommended for children and adolescents. 

Why are children and adolescents being offered the COVID-19 vaccine? Why should young people get vaccinated?

Vaccination of young people provides direct protection against COVID-19 illness. This protects others and helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Millions of children and adolescents around the world have already received the COVID-19 vaccine. For example:

  • In the United States, around 45 per cent of 12-15 year olds have had their first dose of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Among US adolescents 16-17 years of age, around 58 per cent have had their first dose of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and 43 per cent are fully vaccinated.
  • In Israel, around 40 per cent of 12-15 year olds have had their first dose of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine.
  • In Canada, around 76 per cent of 12-17 year olds have had their first dose of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 59 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Learn more about ATAGI recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in all young adolescents in Australia (external site).

How do I know the Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children and adolescents? What testing has been completed?

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

Are the vaccines effective in young people?

Yes. Clinical trials of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines show evidence of strong vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19 in adolescents.

How can 12-15 year olds get vaccinated?

Appointments for children aged 12-15 years can be booked by a parent or legal guardian through:

  • GPs, GP respiratory clinics, pharmacies or Aboriginal Medical Services: find a participating provider in your area through the Vaccine Clinic Finder (external site), or;
  • a State-run vaccination clinic either:
    • Online at VaccinateWA, registered as a dependant under the VaccinateWA (external site) account of a parent or legal guardian. Instructions on how to book a dependant online are available in the VaccinateWA FAQs
    • By phone on 13COVID (13 268 43), if the parent or legal guardian does not have a VaccinateWA (external site) account, 13 COVID can register them and then register a dependant.

Children with specified medical conditions are recommended to get vaccinated by their GP, as they have a good understanding of their medical needs.

How can 16 and 17 year olds get vaccinated?

People aged 16-17 years can book to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through:

  • GPs, GP respiratory clinics, pharmacies or Aboriginal Medical Services: find a participating provider in your area through the Vaccine Clinic Finder (external site), or;
  • a State-run vaccination clinic:
    • Online at VaccinateWA (external site) if they have a valid email address, or
    • By phone on 13 COVID (13 268 43) if they do not have a valid email address, or if they need assistance.

What happens when parents do not agree on vaccinating a child or dependant?

A parent or legal guardian must provide consent for a child or dependant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, where the child is not considered to be a mature minor. The  COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) requires the signature of one parent or legal guardian for vaccination of a child or dependant to proceed, or consent must be provided verbally over the phone.

Where there is joint custody of a child or dependant, and the parents have differing views on whether the child or dependant should be vaccinated, the parents are advised to speak with their GP or medical practitioner to reach a joint decision.

Where the parents cannot reach a joint decision, the matter can be assessed in court to decide what is in the child or dependant’s best interests.

What happens if there is a court order in place for a child or dependant?

Where a court order is in place for a child or dependant and the legal responsibility for health care rests with one parent only, consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine must be provided by the designated parent.

COVID-19 vaccine consent for 12-15 year olds

Can 12-15 year-olds give their own consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

No. For booking and administration of COVID-19 vaccines through the state-run vaccination clinics, GP's and pharmacies, a parent or legal guardian must provide consent for this age group.

If 12-15 year-olds want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through a school-based clinic or visit a state-run vaccination clinic with the school, they will need to provide a consent form signed by their parent or guardian.

For more information, see the WA Health Consent to Treatment Policy (external site).

How can a parent or legal guardian provide valid consent for a 12-15 year-old?

If the child has been registered and booked in through VaccinateWA (external site), the parent or legal guardian will receive a booking confirmation email advising them to:

  • attend the clinic with their child to give verbal consent, or
  • be available by phone to give verbal consent, or
  • download and print a COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) from HealthyWA and sign it, for the child to present to the clinic.

Parental or legal guardian consent must be provided and confirmed before a vaccine can be administered.

Does an adult need to attend a clinic with a 12-15 year old?

Yes, a 12-15 year old must be accompanied by:

  • their parent or legal guardian on the day of their appointment, or
  • another person aged 18 and over; with a COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) signed by the parent or legal guardian, or consent from the parent or legal guardian provided verbally over the phone.

What if a parent or legal guardian cannot attend the clinic on the day of the 12-15 year old’s vaccination?

If a parent or legal guardian is not present for the appointment, a signed COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) must be presented. Alternatively, the parent or legal guardian may provide verbal consent over the phone at the time of vaccination when phoned by the nurse.

If consent by a parent or legal guardian cannot be obtained on the day, the 12-15 year old child cannot be vaccinated.

If the child attends the clinic with proof of consent, but without their parent or legal guardian, they must still be accompanied by a person aged 18 years and over.

How can a parent or legal guardian provide consent for 12-15 year olds to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through a school-based vaccination program?

Parents and legal guardians of children aged 12-15 must sign a consent form. Without a signed consent form, children will not be vaccinated.

Parents and legal guardians should register their dependants under their VaccinateWA account ahead of the school-based vaccination program.

If the parent or legal guardian does not have an existing VaccinateWA account, they can create one at the VaccinateWA login page and complete the initial ‘My Contact Details’ step at a minimum. A dependant can then be registered under their account.

For step-by-step instructions on how to register a dependant, please refer to the online booking (VaccinateWA) FAQs. 

The school will provide consent forms to parents for completion. The COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) form is also available on the HealthyWA website for parents or legal guardians to download, print and sign.

What is ‘valid consent’?

For consent to be valid, it must be:

  • Voluntary - It must be given by the patient themselves and must not be unduly influenced by the health practitioner, friends or family.
  • Informed - It must be given after the potential risks and benefits of the relevant vaccine, the risks of not having it, and any alternative options have been explained to the person.
  • Given by a person with capacity – It must be given by a person with the intellectual and emotional capacity to understand the information presented to them and make reasonable judgements about receiving the vaccine.
  • Specific to the treatment – The consent must cover the treatment to be performed.
  • Current – The consent must be reviewed if the person’s views, circumstances (e.g. adverse reaction to previous dose) or ability to meet the above criteria have changed.

Can a 12-15 year old refuse a COVID-19 vaccination that a parent or legal guardian has previously provided consent for?

Yes. If a child aged 12-15 does not want to be vaccinated, they do not have to, even if their parent or guardian has given consent for them to have the vaccine.

The wishes of the individual will be respected, and the parent or legal guardian will be told that the immunisation was not completed for this reason.

For more information, see the WA Health Consent to Treatment Policy (external site).

Can a 12-15 year old request a COVID-19 vaccination that a parent or legal guardian has not provided consent for?

If a child aged 12-15 wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the parent or legal guardian has not provided consent, it is recommended that the child discuss the matter with a GP or health practitioner.

For more information, see the WA Health Consent to Treatment Policy (external site).

COVID-19 vaccine consent for 16-17 year olds

Can 16 and 17 year olds give their own consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. In most cases, people aged 16-17 years have the intellectual capacity to provide valid consent. People aged 16-17 are likely to be judged mature minors by health professionals, unless other factors limit their capacity (e.g. an intellectual or mental disability).

People aged 16-17 can provide their own written consent online to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, when they book an appointment through VaccinateWA (external site).

On the day of their appointment they will be assessed by the health professional prior to receiving the vaccine. The health professional will determine the person’s maturity and whether they have the intellectual and emotional capacity to consent or decline treatment as a mature minor.

If the person is judged to be a mature minor, their consent will be confirmed, and they can receive the vaccine.

If a 16-17 year old wants to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through a school-based clinic or visit a state-run vaccination clinic with the school, they will need to provide a consent form signed by their parent or guardian.

For more information, see the WA Health Consent to Treatment Policy (external site).

Does an adult need to attend a clinic with a 16-17 year old?

No, not if the 16-17 year old has been judged to be a mature minor at their appointment. They can attend the vaccination clinic by themselves or with friends or family.

However, if a 16-17 year old is not judged to be a mature minor at their appointment, they will not be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine without written consent from a parent or legal guardian and an accompanying adult.

A parent or guardian can download and print the COVID-19 vaccination consent form (PDF 252KB) and sign it for 16-17 year olds who require written consent. An adult will need to accompany a 16-17 year old to their appointment if they have not been judged to be a mature minor. 

What is valid consent?

For consent to be valid, it must be:

  • Voluntary - It must be given by the patient themselves and must not be unduly influenced by the health practitioner, friends or family.
  • Informed - It must be given after the potential risks and benefits of the relevant vaccine, the risks of not having it, and any alternative options have been explained to the person.
  • Given by a person with capacity – It must be given by a person with the intellectual and emotional capacity to understand the information presented to them and make reasonable judgements about receiving the vaccine.
  • Specific to the treatment – The consent must cover the treatment to be performed.
  • Current – The consent must be reviewed if the person’s views, circumstances (e.g. adverse reaction to previous dose) or ability to meet the above criteria have changed.

Can a 16-17 year old refuse a COVID-19 vaccination that a parent or legal guardian has previously provided consent for?

Yes. If a 16-17 year old, who has been assessed as a mature minor, does not want to be vaccinated, they do not have to – even if their parent or guardian has given consent for them to have the vaccine.

The wishes of the individual will be respected, and the parent or guardian will be told that the immunisation was not completed for this reason.

For more information, see the WA Health Consent to Treatment Policy (external site).

COVID-19 vaccine and overseas travel

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. (Note, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine by Johnson & Johnson only requires a single dose.)

The recommended interval to receive a 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.

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

How do I record COVID-19 vaccinations I received overseas?

If you received an approved COVID-19 vaccine overseas (external site), you can have it recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) when you return to Australia.

You can ask a registered vaccination provider (like a GP or pharmacy) to record your COVID-19 vaccinations on the AIR. You will need to provide documentation in English of your vaccination. A free translating service (external site) is available if you need help to translate your document. If you need an interpreter, please call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) on 131 450.

If you’ve received mixed doses of approved vaccines overseas, you can also have these recorded to the AIR.

Once they’ve been added, you’ll be able to use your COVID-19 digital certificate or immunisation history statement as proof of your COVID-19 vaccinations.

Learn more about adding overseas vaccinations (external site).

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.

COVID-19 vaccine safety and side effects

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).

Developing and licensing a vaccine has in the past taken a decade or longer, but some COVID-19 vaccines have been registered and used within 12 months of the virus being discovered.

Some of the reasons behind this rapid progress include:

  • Unprecedented funding and collaboration between vaccine developers and governments around the world. Financial risks have been taken, such as building manufacturing facilities before a vaccine is even available.
  • Technology has evolved to make vaccine development faster than in the past. Previously, viral vaccines could only be developed after growing the virus in a lab, which takes time. Newer technologies build vaccines using the genetic code for the virus, so researchers around the world were able to start their work as soon as the genome for the virus was released in January 2020.
  • 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.
  • Large clinical trials also progress more quickly if a disease is widespread, as is the case with COVID-19 in many countries, as a significant difference between the unvaccinated and vaccinated groups can be detected sooner than for a rare disease.

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.

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 two days of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and where the symptoms last less than two 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. 

Do you give expired or defective vaccines?

No. WA Health closely monitors all the vaccines, so no one receives a vaccine that is expired or defective.

Each batch of vaccine that arrives in Australia is checked by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) before the vaccines are used. You can see the data about each batch at the TGA website (external site).

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 to date in Western Australia report experiencing some symptoms when contacted by SMS three 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 one to two 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).

I’m worried about the side effects of the vaccine as I have no one else to look after the children.

Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, and reduces the rate of transmission. To better protect yourself, your family and the community, eligible people should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Just over half of people have mild side effects, like a sore arm or headache, that will only last a few days. Between 8-20% of people need time off their normal duties but this is only for less than one day.

In comparison, if you were to catch COVID-19 then the time you may need off could be much greater and some symptoms can last beyond 12 weeks.

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 four 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).

What is myocarditis and pericarditis?

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These two conditions can occur together. Both these conditions occur relatively commonly in the general population.

A small number of myocarditis and pericarditis cases have been reported in Australia after vaccination with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (the Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines). The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is monitoring these cases, but the risk remains very low. Most reported cases have been mild with patients recovering quickly and were more common in males aged under 30 years after their second dose..

Symptoms typically appear within 1-5 days, and can include:

  • chest pain, pressure or discomfort
  • palpitations (irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or ‘fluttering’
  • fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • pain with breathing.

For people with ongoing cardiac inflammation or those who develop myocarditis/pericarditis after their first dose COVID-19 vaccination should be deferred and the options regarding future doses discussed

People with a history of most chronic cardiovascular conditions are recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. No specific precautions are recommended for people in these groups. This includes:

  • prior myocarditis, pericarditis or endocarditis more than 6 months ago
  • coronary artery disease
  • myocardial infarction
  • stable heart failure
  • arrhythmias
  • prior history of rheumatic heart disease (RHD)
  • Kawasaki Disease
  • people with implantable cardiac devices, complex or severe congenital heart disease, history of cardiac transplant, or people with dilated cardiomyopathy

People with the following conditions should consult a GP, immunisation specialist or cardiologist about the best timing of vaccination and whether any additional precautions are recommended.

  • recent or current inflammatory cardiac illness (eg: myocarditis, pericarditis or endocarditis). Recent is considered within the last 6 months
  • acute rheumatic fever
  • acute rheumatic heart disease
  • Current sever heart failure

For more information, see Guidance on Myocarditis and Pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (external site). 

Is the vaccine safe if I have allergies?

Almost everyone can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes people with a history of severe allergies or anaphylaxis to food, drugs, venom, or latex and those with allergic conditions, including asthma, eczema or hay fever.

If you have had anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to a particular type of COVID-19 vaccine or to an ingredient in a vaccine, then you should not have that COVID-19 vaccine. You may be able to have an alternative COVID-19 vaccine.

Your immunisation provider will ask you about any potential allergies prior to vaccination and decide how best to manage your situation.

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

Additional precautions are currently recommended for people with a history of anaphylaxis to previous vaccines and/or multiple drugs, such as consulting an allergy specialist or staying for 30 minutes of observation in a facility with medical staff.

These precautions apply to people who:

  • have had a suspected allergic reaction after a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • have had an allergic reaction (but not anaphylaxis) to an ingredient of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • have had anaphylaxis to other vaccines or to medications (including injectable or oral medications) where there may be common ingredients with a COVID-19 vaccine such as:
  • people with a history of confirmed mastocytosis (a mast cell disorder) with recurrent anaphylaxis, and who require treatment for this condition.

Your immunisation provider will ask you about any potential allergies prior to vaccination and decide how best to manage your situation.

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 very 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 COVID-19 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.

Is the vaccine safe for those with chronic medical conditions?

People with chronic medical conditions are recommended to get the vaccine, as they are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19.

If you have a bleeding disorder or you are taking a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulant), tell your immunisation provider.

Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine

People with a history of the following conditions should not receive the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine and should be offered an alternative vaccine (e.g. Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines):

  • cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (a type of brain clot)
  • heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (a rare reaction to heparin treatment)
  • idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis (blood clot in the abdominal veins)
  • antiphospholipid syndrome associated with blood clots
  • capillary leak syndrome
  • thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after a previous dose
  • anaphylaxis or severe immediate allergic reaction to first dose
  • severe adverse event following first dose attributable to the vaccine.

Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines

If you have or had any of the following heart conditions, you can still have the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine. But you should talk to your doctor first to discuss the best timing of vaccination, and whether any extra precautions are needed:

  • recent (i.e. within the last 6 months) or current myocarditis, pericarditis or endocarditis
  • acute rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease
  • current severe heart failure

If myocarditis or pericarditis has developed and has been attributed to the first dose of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines, do not have another dose of these mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, and discuss options regarding future doses with your doctor.

If you have had anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines or to an ingredient in one of these vaccines, then you should not have that COVID-19 vaccine. You may be able to have an alternative COVID-19 vaccine (e.g. Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine).

Can I have a COVID-19 vaccine if I am immunocompromised?

Yes. If you are immunocompromised it means you have a weakened immune system, either from an underlying medical condition or from medical treatment that weakens your immune system.

The COVID-19 vaccine is highly recommended for people who are immunocompromised because of their increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends a third dose as part of the primary course of vaccination for people who are severely immunocompromised. Further information is available in the ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised (external site).

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

If you are taking an immune-weakening treatment (immunosuppressant/immunomodulator), including chemotherapy, you should discuss the best timing of vaccination with your treating doctor.

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

What is capillary leak syndrome?

Capillary leak syndrome is an extremely rare but severe relapsing-remitting condition where fluid from small blood vessels (capillaries) leaks into surrounding tissue.

Cases of capillary leak syndrome after the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine have been reported (external site) overseas. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has received a report of one case (external site) of a patient who died from multi-organ failure but had signs of capillary leakage. It is not clear whether this was linked to the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine as other causes could not be ruled out.

A history of the capillary leak syndrome is a contraindication to the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine. This means if you have had capillary leak syndrome in the past, you should have an alternative vaccine.

Do COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?

No, none of the COVID-19 vaccines currently under review by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) cause infertility.

The TGA will not approve a vaccine for use in Australia unless it is safe and effective (external site). This includes impacts on fertility.

The theory that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility is based on the disproven idea that one of the spike proteins in COVID-19 and the Syncytin-1 protein (which help placenta development) are the same. They are not.

There is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine.

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

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 an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (the Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines) at any stage of pregnancy.

For more information read the COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy (external site).

COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness

Is the vaccine effective?

Clinical trial and real-world experience for the approved COVID-19 vaccines have shown they are 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. 

How long does 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 different strains (including the Delta strain)?

Currently approved vaccines have been shown to be effective to provide strong protection against new variants as these vaccines work to create a broad immune response. The mutations causing these variants should not make the vaccines ineffective. A study from the UK found the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation for the Delta strain after the second dose. This same study found Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) to be 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses. Initial clinical trial results show that the Spikevax (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine is about 94% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19.

Will I need a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

Fully vaccinated people aged 18 and over, who received their second dose at least six months ago, are able to receive a booster vaccine from a state-run clinic with no appointment.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends booster doses for adults in high-risk groups.

The priority groups are:

  • People at greater risk of severe COVID-19:
    • people aged 50 years and older,
    • those with underlying medical conditions,
    • residents of aged care and disability facilities, and
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults.
  • People at increased occupational risk of COVID-19

For more information, see ATAGI recommendations on the use of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine | Australian Government Department of Health (external site).

Third doses for immunocompromised people - Severely immunocompromised people aged 12 and over are strongly encouraged to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary course of COVID-19 vaccination. A third dose aims to bring immunity up to the level as the general population. It is not the same thing as a ‘booster dose’ for the general population described above.

For more information, see ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised (external site).

COVID-19 vaccine mythbusters

Read the COVID-19 vaccine mythbusters and FAQs for Aboriginal people (PDF 1.2MB).

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.

The COVID-19 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. This process does not alter your DNA in any way.

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: 22-11-2021

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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