How to access the COVID-19 vaccine

More than 165,000 Australians have received their first vaccination for COVID-19 since the vaccine became available on our shores.

Being vaccinated is an important step in controlling the outbreak. But while the introduction of the vaccine has been welcomed by many, it has left plenty of questions to be answered.

How do we know if the vaccine is safe and effective?
The COVID-19 vaccines being administered in Australia are safe, effective and free. It is an important safeguard to protect you, your family and the wider community.

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.

Vaccine ingredients vary depending on what the vaccine is for but generally include a protein component of the virus, a piece of genetic code, a very small dose of the weakened virus, a substance to boost the immune response, a small amount of preservative and sterile saline for injections.

Ingredients for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are listed online at the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Will I experience any side effects with the vaccine?
Some people may experience minor side effects following vaccination. Most last no longer than a couple of days and you will recover without any problems. Some side effects to look out for include:

  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site;
  • Tiredness;
  • Headache;
  • Muscle or joint pain;
  • Chills or fever; and
  • Nausea.

These side effects are generally an expected part of your immune system response as your body learns to fight a virus.

Some people may experience an allergic reaction, which includes a sudden change in breathing; sudden or unusual itchiness or a sudden or unusual widespread rash. These symptoms can be life threatening and you should seek immediate medical care.

If you have had the COVID-19 vaccine and think you may be experiencing side-effects, you can check here or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

What happens if I am planning to get pregnant, am pregnant or breastfeeding?
If you are planning a pregnancy, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine and do not need to avoid becoming pregnant before or after vaccination. If you become pregnant after your first dose of the vaccine, you may choose to have the second dose during pregnancy or wait until after your child is born. It is important to note that the first dose may only provide partial protection against COVID-19 and this protection may be short-lived. You will only have full protection after two doses.

The Australian Government does not routinely recommend COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy and believes that you and your health professional should consider if the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks. You should consider having a vaccine during your pregnancy if you have medical risk factors for sever COVID-19 or are at high risk of exposure to the virus.

If you are breastfeeding, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine at any time. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination. For more information, click here.

When can I get the vaccine?
All Australians are encouraged to be vaccinated, but when you receive the vaccine depends on your COVID-19 risk factors like your age, job and your health.

Because of the limited supply of vaccines in the early phases of the rollout, it may take some time for an appointment to be available, but you will be scheduled as soon as possible. Those at greatest risk of exposure or those likely to experience serious illness due to COVID-19 will be vaccinated first.

Phase 1A is currently underway and includes border security and quarantine staff, frontline health staff at high risk, residents and staff at aged and disability care residences, people.
Phase 1B, which is scheduled to start at the end of March, includes people aged 70 years and over, remaining healthcare workers, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander adults, adults with underlying medical conditions, then critical and high-risk workers.

To check if you are eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

What happens after I take the vaccine?
Immediately following the vaccination, you should stay on site for at least 15 minutes so a healthcare professional can monitor you for any allergic or adverse reactions. If you have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, you should let your medical provider know this and they may ask you to stay on site for a longer period.

You should also note what COVID-19 vaccine you have received, the date you received it, where, and be provided with a fact sheet.  This should also be recorded online at MyGov through your Medicare or My Health Record account. Depending on the vaccine you are administered, two doses may be required with a second shot three to four weeks after your first. Please talk to your health provider.

As a St.LukesHealth member, you can also connect your Snug account to My Health Record, allowing you to keep up to date with the whole family’s immunisation schedule right from your pocket. Downloading Snug is easy. Simply visit your phone App Store or Google Play.

Public health rules and guidelines still apply after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These include testing, contract testing, quarantine and isolation.

To continue to protect others you will still need to:

  • Practice good hygiene;
  • Practice social distancing;
  • Follow the limits for public gatherings; and
  • Understand how to isolate if you need to.

If you are wondering whether you can cross state boarders without restrictions after you are vaccinated, it is best to check the local state and territory websites for directives.

More information about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout, can be found by visiting each state and territory’s web page. These can be found below:

- Information sourced from the Australian Government Department of Health
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