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Administering the vaccines and managing side effects

Information about administering the COVID-19 vaccines and managing side effects.

Book your vaccine appointment

From Wednesday 21 April 2021, a number of high-volume vaccination centres will open to people who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To book an appointment or for more information visit Book your vaccine appointment.

Administering the COVID-19 vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia require injection into muscle and are usually given into the deltoid muscle in the upper arm. This is similar to many other vaccines, including seasonal influenza vaccines.

It is very important that people receive two doses of the same brand of vaccine, with adequate spacing between doses as recommended by the manufacturer. This helps ensure the efficacy of the vaccines.

Standard pre- and post-vaccine procedures will apply, including a checklist and a minimum 15-minute observation period following vaccination. Supporting documents and information to share with vaccine recipients can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health webpage.

Resources for vaccine providers

Resources for patients

Adverse reactions after vaccination

As with all medicines, patients may experience minor symptoms following vaccination. These are expected and are related to the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Most side effects are mild and self-limiting, and patients will recover without any problems.

Normal and very common reactions to vaccination include:

  • pain, redness and/or swelling at site of injection
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • mild fever
  • muscle aches.

As the COVID-19 vaccines are given by injection into the muscle, usually in the upper arm, many people will be sore at the injection site straight away. In the hours following vaccination, some people may also have mild and temporary fever, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. This type of reaction will normally only last for 1 or 2 days at the most.

Serious reactions like allergic reactions are possible but extremely rare. Advise patients to seek medical advice straight away if:

  • their body reacts in an unexpected way
  • they have any concerns about potential side effects of vaccines.

It is recommended that people to be monitored for at least 15 minutes after receiving any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine, to ensure care is given if there are any serious adverse reactions such as anaphylaxis.

It is recommended that individuals with a history of anaphylactic reaction to vaccines be monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination, rather than 15 minutes.

A person is much more likely to be seriously impacted by COVID-19 than by the vaccine.

If a patient experiences fever and injection site swelling after their first dose

Common symptoms following vaccination may include injection site pain and swelling, fever, chills, tiredness, and headache. For most people, side effects last no longer than 1-2 days. A side effect is not a contraindication to a second dose.

People with an immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should not receive additional doses of that vaccine. An immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or medication includes any hypersensitivity-related signs or symptoms consistent with urticaria, angioedema, respiratory distress (for example wheezing, stridor), or anaphylaxis that occur within four hours of administration.

Vaccine providers should attempt to determine whether reactions reported following vaccination are consistent with immediate allergic reactions versus other types of reactions commonly observed following vaccination, such as a vasovagal reaction or post-vaccination side effects (which are not contraindications to receiving the second vaccine dose).

In Victoria, clinicians must report severe adverse effects through  SAEFVIC. This should be done whether you think the side effect was related to the vaccine or not.

The ATAGI has released guidelines to assist health care workers assess if their patient should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine should not be administered with other vaccines.

If a dose of COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently administered within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.

Influenza vaccine

Victorians will be encouraged to get a flu vaccine this year to protect themselves against influenza. This will help protect our health system and our most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The influenza vaccine should not be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. The influenza vaccine can be administered with a minimum of 14 days before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.

This interim recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is based on the lack of direct data demonstrating absence of any safety issues or interference of immune responses after co-administration of an influenza and COVID-19 vaccines. As further information becomes available, this recommendation may change to permit routine co-administration.

Resources

Safety and managing side effects of vaccines

Administering vaccines

Reviewed 18 April 2021

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