Answering some of the questions your patients’ might be asking about receiving the COVID-19 vaccines

Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines update

Now that the vaccine program is underway, we have some of the main questions that your patients could ask and the answers, so that you and other staff can prepare for upcoming appointments.

Do I need to wait between receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and the Flu vaccine?

Yes. Australians are being advised to wait two weeks between getting the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine — but it doesn’t matter which one you have first.

Is it safe to receive the vaccine?

The trials so far in tens of thousands of people across the world and tens of millions in vaccination programs, show that the short-term safety profiles are excellent.  Our Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is also actively monitoring safety during and after the rollout.

This video describes the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s process of how they assess and approve vaccines https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/about-covid-19-vaccines/how-covid-19-vaccines-are-tested-and-approved?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxZyZ5IvK7gIVCCUrCh0GxwxsEAAYASACEgJGYvD_BwE 

Can I choose what vaccine I receive?

Unfortunately, no. At this stage, the Federal Government has been very clear about who will get which vaccine. 

Quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, aged care and disability staff and aged care and disability residents will mostly, but not exclusively, receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Pretty much everyone else at this stage will be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine now that it has been provisionally approved

Should I wait to receive the vaccine even if I have been offered it now?

There’s no reason to wait.  The sooner you have the first dose, the sooner you get the second and receive full coverage against severe COVID-19. If you’re worried about whether you or a family member should get the vaccine, please talk to your doctor.  

Will there be any side effects?

All medicines can have side effects. Most of the vaccine side effects are minor and temporary. People with a history of anaphylaxis need to take advice from their GP about the Pfizer vaccine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any further questions about side effects. If you have a severe reaction, dial 000 or go to your nearest hospital.  Anything other than a sore arm, minor symptoms or fever should be reported to the TGA so they have a log of what people are experiencing. 

What are some of the potential side effects?

Redness at injection site, nausea, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and joint pain are potential side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any further questions about side effects.

How long will it be between the first and second vaccine doses?

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines need two doses to be effective, with the Pfizer option needing to be given 21 days apart and the AstraZeneca jab (which the majority of people will receive) 12 weeks apart.

What about if I am pregnant?

Authorities do not routinely recommend COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy. You and your health professional can consider it if the potential benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks.  Many pregnant women have been vaccinated overseas with no short-term effects on the pregnancy but that’s not a formal study.

When can I expect to receive the vaccine?

You need to consult the Australian government’s national roll-out strategy updates.

Phase 1a has commenced and will see 678,000 people, including quarantine and border workers, frontline health workers, and aged care and disability staff and residents, get the Pfizer-BioNTech jab and the AstraZeneca as it becomes available, from mid-February to the end of March.

You will need to receive a second injection around one month after the first, if it’s Pfizer and three months if it’s AstraZeneca.

Phase 1b is a significantly larger rollout in which 6.1 million people including anyone aged over 70, other healthcare workers, younger adults with an underlying condition and high-risk workers will get a vaccine.

It also includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are over 55.

By then, the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which will be made in Australia and does not require super-cold storage, will come on stream.

Phase 2a covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are between 18-54, along with Australians over 50 years old and other critical high-risk workers.

Phase 2b is the rest of the adult population, plus anyone from the previous phases that have been missed out.

Phase 3 will see children given the jab, but only “if recommended” as evidence currently shows that they don’t transmit COVID-19 like adults.

For more information visit https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/australias-covid-19-vaccine-national-roll-out-strategy

The Australian government expects the majority of vaccines to be administered by late October 2020.

Other References

https://www.health.gov.au/
https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-vaccination-covid-19-vaccination-decision-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregnancy

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