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About COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines, getting vaccinated, side effects and your support options

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone aged 5 years and over in Australia.

The type of vaccine you can have depends on your age.

It is recommended that everybody has two primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are aged 16 or over, you should get a third dose of vaccine 3 months after your second dose, to help keep you protected against COVID-19.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has approved a winter dose of COVID-19 vaccine. This will increase vaccine protection before winter for people at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Eligible people who have received their primary vaccinations and third dose will be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine ‘winter dose’.

Those eligible are:

  • adults aged 65 years and older
  • residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • people aged 16 years and older who are severely immunocompromised
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older.

These people can receive their winter dose 4 months after receiving their third dose. If a person eligible for a winter dose is infected with COVID-19, they will need to wait the standard 3 months until they can receive their winter dose, as per ATAGI adviceExternal Link .

For more information about which vaccine you are eligible to receive, your specific dose schedule, and about each vaccine available in Australia, see the following pages:

Vaccines are strictly tested for safety

Before COVID-19 vaccines are used in Australia, they must pass strict safety standards set by Australia's independent medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods AdministrationExternal Link

The COVID-19 vaccines being used in Australia have been used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. As of 23 January 2022, more than 19 million people across Australia have received their first and second doses of these vaccines.

All 4 vaccines in use in Australia are very effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19, including new variants of COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe and voluntary. Choosing to get vaccinated helps protect ourselves, our families and our community.

COVID-19 vaccine co-administration

It is safe to receive a COVID-19 on the same day as another vaccination. This is called ‘co-administration’ and includes vaccines like the flu vaccination and routine childhood and adolescent vaccination.

Coming into the cold and flu season, co-administration is an effective way to ensure maximum available protection against both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. Studies demonstrate the safety and immunogenicity of co-administration of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.

For children and teenagers, it is an effective way to ensure timely routine and first, second, and third (where eligible) COVID-19 vaccination.

For more information visit:

Vaccine side effects

Common reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations include:

  • pain where you had the injection
  • tiredness
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • fever and chills
  • joint pain.

These are expected side effects that are generally mild and on average last a day or two. Serious side effects like allergic reactions or anaphylaxis are extremely rare.

Vaccine ingredients are tested for safety in the manufacturing process.

Reporting symptoms following vaccination

Reporting your symptoms after a vaccination helps ensure COVID-19 vaccines are delivered as safely as possible in Victoria.

You can report your symptoms following vaccination to Victoria’s central reporting service for adverse events following immunisation, SAEFVICExternal Link

Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms, symptoms that are not going away after a few days, or are otherwise concerned about side effects.

Your options if you are worried about side effects

When to seek medical attention after a vaccination

After your AstraZeneca vaccine, talk to your doctor immediately if:

  • you have an expected side effect of the vaccine that has not gone away after a few days.
  • you have any of the following symptoms, particularly between 4 and 42 days after vaccination:
    • a headache that keeps coming back. It might:
      • be mild or strong
      • be present beyond 48 hours after vaccination, or come later than 48 hours after vaccination
      • feel worse when you lie down
      • go away for a little while when you take pain relief like paracetamol, but then it comes back
    • nausea or vomiting.
    • blurred vision, difficulty speaking, drowsiness or confusion, or seizures.
    • abdominal (belly) pain that won't go away.
    • shortness of breath or chest pain.
    • lower limb pain, redness or swelling.
    • tiny blood spots under the skin away from the area where the injection was received.

View more on thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) and related symptoms.

After your Pfizer or Moderna vaccine

Talk to your doctor immediately if:

  • you have an expected side effect of the vaccine which has not gone away after a few days
  • you feel pain or pressure in your chest
  • it hurts when you breathe
  • you find it hard to take deep breath
  • you have an irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or 'fluttering' feelings in your chest
  • you faint.

For more on cardiac side effects after COVID-19 vaccination.

Tell your doctor you have recently received the vaccine.

After your Novavax vaccine

Serious side effects are very rare.

You may experience the following uncommon side effects after you receive your vaccine:

  • tender lymph glands
  • a rash
  • itch at the injection site
  • an increase in your blood pressure for up to three days.

You should see your doctor if you are worried about any side effects.

COVID-19 vaccines are created following strong ethical standards

There are strong ethical standards surrounding the use of cells in vaccine development. COVID-19 vaccines meet these standards.

There are no foetal cells in the COVID-19 dose (injection) that you receive.

COVID-19 variants

All viruses evolve over time. This includes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

When a virus spreads through a community, it makes more copies of itself. When the virus makes copies, it sometimes changes a little bit. These changes are called mutations. A virus with one or more new mutations is called a 'variant' of the original virus. AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines are very effective in preventing serious illness or hospitalisation from COVID-19.

Maintain COVIDSafe behaviours

Reducing the spread of COVID-19 helps reduce the number of times the virus copies itself. To do this, we must maintain COVIDSafe settings to help reduce the chance the virus will change into a new variant.

In some cases, the variant acts in a different way compared to the original virus. For example, some new COVID-19 variants appear to be more infectious or cause more severe diseases.

How variants affect COVID-19 vaccines

Even if the virus changes, COVID-19 vaccines still help your body recognise and fight the virus.

After two doses, the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines all reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from the Delta and Omicron variant. Over time, the protection provided by the vaccines reduces. This is why a third dose has been recommended to everyone aged 16 and over, 3 months after their second dose. A third dose, and fourth dose for people who are especially at risk, strengthens your immune system and helps to maintain a high level of protection against serious illness from the COVID-19 virus.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)External Link looks closely at variants and their effect on vaccines as part of their approval and monitoring processes.

Variants may mean people need additional COVID-19 vaccine doses, like we do for tetanus and whooping cough. It may also mean we need to be vaccinated regularly, like the flu vaccine each year.

How COVID-19 vaccines were developed

There are many reasons why COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed quickly and safely.

Scientists developing these vaccines had access to a lot of resources

To develop the COVID-19 vaccine, many people, companies and research facilities offered money, resources, equipment, and teamwork to make the process as efficient as possible because of the seriousness of the global pandemic.

Existing technologies helped researchers develop a COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines are a new type of vaccine, but the technology used to develop them is not new and has been researched and tested for many years.

Technology made data analysis quicker and easier for scientists researching COVID-19 vaccines

This can also help scientists research lots of different vaccines at the same time.

Overlapping research and clinical trial phases made the process faster

In traditional vaccine development, each phase is carried out separately, which takes longer. COVID-19 vaccines were safely manufactured at the same time as clinical trials, which helped make the process quicker. Ensuring a COVID-19 vaccine is safe to use is always the top priority during its development.

Vaccine regulators check all COVID-19 vaccine data as soon as it becomes available (rather than waiting for all data to be ready and checking in one go, like they do for other vaccines). Regulators carry out all the same tests as they do with other vaccines.

The manufacturing process is more efficient

The manufacturing process begins while a vaccine is going through the approvals process. As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use, the vaccines are already made and ready to use.

Useful resources

Reviewed 09 May 2022

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have COVID-19 call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days. The COVIDSafe Information hotline diverts to the national hotline every day from 8pm to 8am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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