About COVID-19 vaccines

Information about COVID-19 vaccines including side effects, who to contact for medical support, and useful resources about the vaccination process.

COVID-19 vaccines are available for people aged 40 and over

You can get a free COVID-19 vaccination if you are 40 years or older. Two vaccines have been approved for use in Australia:

Vaccine brand

When you should get your second dose

Pfizer vaccine (for people under 60 years old) 6 weeks after your first dose
AstraZeneca vaccine (for people over 60 years old) 12 weeks after your first dose

Read more about the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine and how to get your COVID-19 vaccine.

You will need two doses (injections) of the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are much more effective if you get your second dose. Get the same brand of vaccine for each dose.

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 Administration.

The COVID-19 vaccines being used in Australia have been used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. More than 5 million people across Australia have now received their first dose of this vaccine.

Both vaccines are very effective at preventing infection with COVID-19, and 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.

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.

Expected side effects 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.

Your options if you are worried about side effects

When to seek medical attention after a vaccination

You should visit your doctor if you have:

  • an expected side effect of the vaccine which has not gone away after a few days
  • severe, persistent headaches that are different to your 'usual' headaches and do not settle with paracetamol or other painkillers
  • blurred vision
  • weakness in your face or limbs
  • confusion or seizure.

You should also visit your doctor if you have new or unexpected symptoms (particularly in the 4–20 days after vaccination), such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • leg swelling
  • pin-prick rash or bruising not at the injection site that cannot be explained.

Tell your doctor you have recently received the vaccine.

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 and Pfizer 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 of the vaccine, both AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines appear to reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation with the Delta variant by 90%. Evidence suggests that getting your second dose of the vaccine on time is even more important to protect against some new variants of COVID-19.

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

Variants may mean people need booster shots, 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 Australian Government resources

Reviewed 31 July 2021

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have COVID-19 call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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