More than 18 months into the pandemic, Australia is still experiencing lockdowns and tough restrictions. The Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads easily and may be more dangerous than the original strain. More young people are on ventilators in hospital and some have died.
Vaccination is the country’s best weapon against COVID-19. Yet some people are still hesitant to get vaccinated — or they’re waiting for an alternative vaccine.
Here are some common reasons people aren’t getting, or are delaying, their vaccination.
'The AstraZeneca vaccine could give me a blood clot'
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to an extremely rare blood-clotting condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). But the risk is tiny.
You are extremely unlikely to get a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
By early August, there were 87 cases of TTS in Australia from 6.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Five of those people died.
This means that the average number of deaths from TTS caused by AstraZeneca is less than 1 in a million.
Since it was discovered, doctors have become very good at recognising and treating TTS. The chance of surviving it is even better now.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and low risk. You're more likely to get a blood clot from COVID-19 itself, and from many other things, such as:
- The combined oral contraceptive pill: for every 1 million women who take ‘the pill’, up to 1,200 will develop a blood clot.
- Long-haul travel: for every 4,500 flights over 4 hours, there will be 1 incidence of blood clotting.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): regular use of this common type of pain-relief medicine (which includes ibuprofen), can almost double a person’s risk of blood clots.
You can still take these medicines or get on a plane. But it’s important to understand the risks and benefits of anything you do.
'I'm aged 18-59 — we were told not to get AstraZeneca'
Yes, earlier in the year, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) said that the Pfizer vaccine was the preferred vaccine for people aged 18 to 59. This was due a slightly increased risk of developing the very rare condition TTS (linked to AstraZeneca) for this age group.
But the situation has changed. So, ATAGI has changed its advice.
The Delta variant is more severe than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain of COVID-19. The proportion of younger people in hospital, on ventilators or dying due to COVID-19 is now higher than during outbreaks of the original strain.
If you live in an area of high community transmission, you are more at risk of dying from COVID-19 than from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
ATAGI strongly recommends that all Australian adults get vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine — including the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is especially true for people in outbreak areas such as Greater Sydney.
The benefits of vaccination outweigh the rare risks of vaccination — for all age groups.
If you’re in an outbreak area, you can get your second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 4 to 8 weeks after your first dose. This is sooner than the usual 12 weeks, and it will offer you the best protection earlier.
'I’ll wait for a different vaccine'
If you wait for your preferred vaccine, it may be too late. It’s best to get vaccinated before an outbreak starts so you’re well protected from COVID-19.
Also, it takes 7 to 14 days after your second dose of either vaccine before you’re fully protected from COVID-19. So don’t delay.
To book your vaccination, contact your doctor (GP) or use the Vaccine Clinic Finder to find a GP or vaccine provider near you.
'COVID-19 is a mild disease and not dangerous'
By early August, COVID-19 had caused more than 4.2 million deaths worldwide. Almost 200 million cases have been reported.
Yes, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk. However, anyone — including healthy young people — can get severe disease and die from COVID-19.
COVID-19 can also cause lasting health problems. One Sydney study found that 1 in 3 people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 were left with symptoms lasting at least 2 months — known as 'long COVID'. These symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath. More than 1 in 10 had poor lung function.
The virus is easily spread by people with few, or no, symptoms. Even if you don’t become unwell with COVID-19, you may pass the virus on to others without knowing it. People you love may become very ill.
Vaccinating most of the population will decrease the spread of COVID-19 in your community. Vaccination protects you, and those around you, from severe COVID-19 and death.
'I don’t trust the vaccines because they were developed quickly'
It does seem like the vaccines were invented ‘overnight’. But scientists and manufacturers started working together on vaccines as soon as the pandemic started.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, is based on years of research by Oxford University in the UK.
The technology behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been developed over the past 10 years. It was tested on other diseases, such as the flu, and other coronaviruses, such as MERS.
All COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia have been through the same rigorous clinical trials that any vaccine normally would go through. The trials were just fast-tracked thanks to unprecedented funding.
And as other countries progress with their vaccine rollouts, more and more 'real-world' data is showing that these vaccines are highly effective at protecting people from severe illness, hospitalisation and death.
'My risk of getting COVID-19 is low'
You might be in an area of low (or no) community transmission. You might think, ‘Why bother getting vaccinated right now?’
But restrictions and lockdowns are likely to end once most Australians are vaccinated.
Even if restrictions are in force, once 8 in every 10 Australians are fully vaccinated, vaccinated people may be exempt from those restrictions. This is according to the Australian Government’s new National Plan to respond to COVID-19.
You may be able to flash your proof of vaccination to enter concerts, cinemas or sporting events — while unvaccinated (but eligible) people stay at home.
The ban on outbound international travel may be lifted. More people will be able to visit, or return home, to Australia. They may be able to quarantine at home instead of in a government-assigned hotel.
Lockdowns could be ‘highly targeted’ only. And when everyone who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated, lockdowns should end.
Don’t like lockdowns? Want to travel, or for the kids to go back to school? Do your bit and get vaccinated.
'My friend (or relative) told me not to get vaccinated'
It’s not their decision — it’s yours.
You should follow the advice of doctors and public-health experts with decades of experience — not that of unqualified people, even if they mean well.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will not only protect you, but also your family and your community. It will protect others who can’t get vaccinated, such as young children.
If you’re not sure about COVID-19 vaccination, speak to your doctor. Make an informed choice.
For more information and support
- Speak to your doctor (GP).
- Read more about COVID-19 and vaccines on the healthdirect COVID-19 hub.
- For information on COVID-19 — including restrictions — call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
- Find COVID-19 vaccines information in your language at health.gov.au.
- For a glossary of vaccination terms in other languages, go to the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service.
- Get COVID-19 and vaccines information in Aboriginal languages at coronavirus.nt.gov.au.
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