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COVID-19 vaccines: Frequently asked questions

Where can I find information in languages other than English?

You can find information on COVID-19 in languages other than English on the Department of Health website

How do I know that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

All vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety before they are approved for use in Australia. This includes careful analysis of clinical trial data, ingredients, chemistry, manufacturing and other factors. Read more about vaccine safety. 

Are the vaccines effective against contracting COVID-19?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will only approve a vaccine if it is effective. This means that any vaccine available in Australia has been proven to be effective in protecting against COVID-19. Read more about how vaccines work.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine be rolled out in Australia?

The first group of Australians will start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in February.

The Government’s priority is to protect our most vulnerable Australians first, and the frontline heroes who are protecting all of us. This includes aged care and disability care residents and workers, frontline health care workers, and quarantine and border workers.

The first priority groups will be vaccinated at up to 50 hospital sites across the country, and in residential aged care and disability facilities. It is expected as additional vaccines such as AstraZeneca are approved, further sites will be stood up.

For more information, see Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be free?

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone living in Australia.

Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary and free. As safe and effective vaccines become available the Government will vaccinate as many Australians as possible for COVID-19. If you choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccine your eligibility for Government payments won’t be affected.

Do I need to provide consent for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Providing informed consent is required before getting each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Written consent is not mandatory and consent may be given verbally.

Vaccination providers may ask for written consent in some settings according to their normal practices.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has developed resources for patients and providers to help with providing informed consent to get a COVID-19 vaccination. This includes an optional consent form.

Do I have to register to get a vaccine? If so, how?

There is currently no need to register to be vaccinated. You may be able to book online as the rollout progresses.

What help is being given to people in rural and remote areas to access vaccinations?

The first priority groups will be vaccinated at up to 50 hospital sites across the country – in metro and regional areas – and in residential aged care and disability facilities. It is expected as additional vaccines such as AstraZeneca are approved, further sites will be stood up.

An additional vaccine workforce has been stood up to support the delivery of Australia’s vaccination program. The workforce will help support and supplement existing services and assist in outreach in areas such as aged care, remote and indigenous communities working with existing providers.

The surge workforce will also partner with peak organisations and other providers to assist in administering the vaccine for harder-to-reach populations, such as rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first?

Based on expert advice, the first priority groups will be aged care and disability care residents and workers, frontline health care workers, and quarantine and border workers.

The phases in which vaccines will be made available in Australia can be found here.

When can I expect to be vaccinated?

The government is aiming to have all Australians who want the vaccination to be vaccinated by the end of 2021. Everyone in Australia is expected to have the opportunity to receive a vaccine in 2021, as the rollout reaches their relevant phase.

How will I be alerted about where and when to attend a vaccination appointment?

How you receive your appointment information will depend on which phase you are in. In Phase 1a most vaccinations will be organised by a person’s employer or care facility.

You will have access to digital and non-digital options to book your vaccination, and receive appointment details.

Is my vaccination status and health data held by the Government? How is it used? How is my privacy maintained?

Administration records of all COVID-19 vaccines will be submitted to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), which is operated by Services Australia. AIR has been Australia’s record of vaccinations for many years now. General Practices will be able to check whether a vaccine has already been administered through AIR and through the patient’s MyHealth Record if they have one. Individuals can access their own records through Medicare or MyHealth Record. Each of these systems upholds high standards for privacy and data protection.

Will under 18s need to be vaccinated?

Vaccination of individuals under 18 will depend on the age groups for which each vaccine is approved. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for individuals 16 years and older. 

The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine has been approved by the TGA Administration for people 18 years and older.

Are there side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

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.

Common reactions to vaccination include:

  • pain, redness and/or swelling where you received the needle
  • mild fever.

Serious reactions like allergic reactions are extremely rare. If you have any concerns about the vaccine, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. 

If you have any questions about vaccines, your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional can help. Healthcare professionals then contribute to ongoing monitoring by informing the TGA of any side effects, even if they are very minor.

This means the TGA can oversee the safety of a vaccine across the country and, in the unlikely event that there is a safety risk, inform healthcare providers, the community and the Government as soon as possible.

What should I do if I suffer an adverse reaction to a vaccine?

Serious reactions like allergic reactions are extremely rare.

If you have any concerns about the vaccine, ask your doctor. 

For specific information about side effects from different doses of vaccines, ask your doctor or healthcare professional.

See your doctor or nurse as soon as possible or go directly to a hospital if:

  • you have a reaction that you consider severe or unexpected
  • you are worried about your condition after vaccination.

Where can I find more information?

Further information on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is available on the Department of Health website.

How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last?

Given that the pandemic only began 12 months ago and the first COVID-19 vaccines started being rolled out in other countries occurred in late 2020 it is not yet known how long the protection afforded by a COVID-19 vaccine will last. This is being evaluated in ongoing research.

Will I need boosters?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved by the TGA for individuals 16 years and older. To provide the best protection, this vaccine requires two doses, at least 21 days apart.  

So far, clinical trials for the Oxford AstraZeneca showing that this vaccine induces antibodies that are able to respond to a variety of mutations. The TGA will continue to closely monitor developments and do its own genetic examination of local cases.

Whether annual or longer booster doses are required for COVID-19 vaccines is still being determined by ongoing clinical trials.

Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?

The Australian Government has published a COVID-19 vaccination guide for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning pregnancy.

It currently contains advice relating to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and will be updated as advice on other vaccines becomes available. 

What conditions preclude vaccination?

You should discuss any existing medical conditions with your doctor or pharmacist prior to being vaccinated. The Department of Health website includes information about who can be vaccinated for COVID-19

Can I get the vaccine if I have recently received other vaccinations, such as the flu jab?

Routine scheduling and giving a flu vaccine with a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days.

People should talk to their health care professional for more information.

Do I still need the flu vaccine if I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-10 vaccine does not protect against Influenza. Routine scheduling and giving a flu vaccine with a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days.

People should talk to their health care professional for more information.

Can I get the vaccine if I don’t have a Medicare card? If so, will I be charged?

COVID-19 vaccines will be free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents and temporary visa-holders as per the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.

Will my Centrelink payments stop if I refuse vaccination?

If people choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccine, this will not affect their family’s eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part A or childcare fee assistance which only includes National Immunisation Program vaccines for those aged younger than 20.

Will I be exempt from quarantine/self-isolation if I am vaccinated?

Vaccination is not a silver bullet or a complete substitute for other public health interventions. Testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation will remain in place until evidence is established that the vaccination prevents transmission, and 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.

If favourable data on vaccination continues to be published over time, then this may trigger a decision as to whether there should be a scale back of other public health interventions. 

What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?

Herd immunity from immunisations refers to when somewhere around 60% to 70% of the population have some degree of protection. The Government is closely monitoring data on COVID-19 vaccines to understand how herd immunity will work, and what that means for Australia.

What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines?

Vaccine ingredients vary depending on what the vaccine is for. They may contain some of the following ingredients:

  • a protein component of a virus
  • a piece of genetic code (DNA or mRNA)
  • a very small dose of a weakened virus
  • a substance to boost the immune response (an adjuvant)
  • a small amount of preservative
  • sterile salt water (saline) for injections

Information on the ingredients of any vaccine approved for use in Australia is available in the Consumer Medicines Information leaflet associated with the approved vaccine, made available on the TGA website at: www.tga.gov.au using the search term ‘Consumer Medicines Information’.

What can I do now to help protect myself from getting COVID-19 until I am able to get a vaccine?

Whether you are vaccinated or not, there are things you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. You must:

If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. We are still learning more about COVID-19 and ongoing research globally suggest reinfection is possible but rare.

Further studies are required to understand how long protection lasts after a natural infection, how likely reinfection is and how soon after the first infection can reinfection take place.

You should talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before receiving a COVID-19 vaccination to seek advice on how long you should wait between recovery and being vaccinated. 

Do I need to wear a mask, maintain hand hygiene and avoid close contact with others if I have gotten the vaccine?

A vaccination should not be viewed as a cure-all or a complete substitute for other public health interventions it should be viewed as supplementary to other measures.

For this reason, established public health practices of testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation will remain in place until evidence is established that the vaccination prevents transmission, and herd immunity is achieved in Australia (i.e. somewhere around 60% to 70% of the population having some degree of protection). 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.

To protect others you must:

How many shots of COVID-19 vaccine will be needed?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved by the TGA for individuals 16 years and older. This vaccine requires two doses, at least 21 days apart. 

Efficacy is dependent on vaccine temperature storage – how is this being quality assured?

The Australian Government understands that different COVID-19 vaccines have specific cold chain transport and storage requirements. Vaccines will be safely and efficiently distributed by leading industry providers DHL Supply Chain and Linfox to vaccination sites across Australia.

The Australian Government, in partnership with these providers is ensuring that processes are in place to maintain cold chain compliance throughout the vaccine supply chain.  

Additionally, vaccine workforces will be adequately trained in cold chain and storage requirements of COVID-19 vaccines to maintain cold chain compliance at vaccination sites.