The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all Australians in 2021. Read about side effects, restrictions, travel and more.
Do COVID-19 vaccines have any side effects?
Common reactions to any vaccine include:
- pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
- mild fever
Pfizer vaccine side effects
Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved the Pfizer vaccine, COMIRNATY, for people aged over 16 years.
Very common side effects of this vaccine include:
Common side effects of COMIRNATY include:
- redness at the injection site
Uncommon side effects of COMIRNATY include:
If you experience a very common, common or uncommon side effect and you're worried, speak to your doctor.
A rare side effect of COMIRNATY is temporary facial drooping on one side. If you or someone else experiences this side effect, call your doctor straight away or go straight to a hospital emergency department.
A side effect of unknown frequency of COMIRNATY is severe allergic reaction. If you or someone else experiences this, call your doctor straight away or go straight to a hospital emergency department.
AstraZeneca vaccine side effects
The TGA has provisionally approved COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca for people aged over 18 years.
However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (or ATAGI) recommends that the Pfizer vaccine be given to adults under 50 years who have not already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
ATAGI issued these recommendations after noting evidence of a very rare but serious side effect that involves blood clots with low blood platelet counts after AstraZeneca vaccination. The syndrome is called ‘thrombosis with thrombocytopenia’.
For more information, see Can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
Less-serious side effects of this vaccine include:
- tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching or swelling at the injection site
- feeling unwell
- chills, fever or feeling feverish
- muscle aches or pain
- joint pain
If you experience a less-serious side effect but you're worried, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider. You can take medicines containing paracetamol if you need relief from pain or fever.
Serious side effects of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has noted evidence of a very rare but serious side effect involving blood clotting (thrombosis) with low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia) following AstraZeneca vaccination.
Any injectable vaccine can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Contact your healthcare provider immediately or go straight to the emergency department at your nearest hospital if you notice any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- rash, itching or hives on the skin
- swelling of the face, lips, tongue or other parts of the body
- shortness of breath, wheezing or difficulty breathing
- fainting, dizziness, feeling lightheaded (due to a drop in blood pressure)
Other side effects not listed here may occur in some people. After you have received medical advice for any side effects that you experience, you can report them to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) at tga.gov.au/reporting-problems. By reporting side effects, you're helping provide more information on the safety of vaccines.
Am I exempt from restrictions once vaccinated?
At this stage, restrictions will still apply in your state or territory.
This is because both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have only been shown to prevent illness — severe illness, in particular — from the disease named COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
It’s not yet known whether these vaccines prevent transmission of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. You still need to follow restrictions after being vaccinated.
Do I still need to wear a mask after I'm vaccinated?
The vaccines have only been shown to prevent the disease (COVID-19) caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. At this stage, it's not known whether they will stop you from catching or spreading the virus.
Wearing a mask is an effective way to help prevent the spread of the virus and in some places, wearing a mask is mandatory regardless of whether you've been vaccinated.
Can I travel overseas once vaccinated?
The advice from the Australian Government has not changed in regard to international travel. There is still a ban on overseas travel from Australia and you can't leave the country unless you have an exemption.
For more information, visit smartraveller.gov.au.
Do I still need to quarantine when I arrive in Australia if I've been vaccinated overseas?
Anyone travelling to Australia from overseas will still need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, even if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
If you’re coming to Australia, you also need to have a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result 72 hours or less before the scheduled departure time of your flight (or your first flight if you have a connecting flight during your journey to Australia).
You need to provide evidence of your negative result when you check in at the airport and carry this while you're travelling.
There are a few exemptions from pre-departure testing — such as where PCR testing is not reasonably available. But being vaccinated is not an exemption.
Will my vaccination be added to my Immunisation History Statement or My Health Record?
The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) records vaccinations given to people living in Australia. Your healthcare provider is responsible for adding any vaccinations to the AIR, and previously this was voluntary. Due to new legislation, adding vaccinations (including COVID-19) to the AIR will now be mandatory.
Your Immunisation History Statement — sometimes referred to as a ‘certificate’ — is proof of any vaccinations you’ve had that were added to the Australian Immunisation Register. In the future this will include your COVID-19 vaccination.
If you can’t access MyGov or the Medicare app, your doctor can print your Immunisation History Statement for you.
If you have a My Health Record, your COVID-19 vaccination details will be added to it automatically.
You can access My Health Record through the myGov website or at myhealthrecord.gov.au. During the COVID-19 vaccination program, you may be able to receive a personalised message via My Health Record, reminding you to have your second dose of the vaccine (at least 21 days after the first dose).
More questions about COVID-19 vaccines
Click on the links below for more questions and answers about COVID-19 vaccines.
Resources in other languages
COVID-19 vaccination resources in other languages are available from the Department of Health.
Looking for more information?
Visit healthdirect's COVID-19 information hub for more answers to questions about the coronavirus, or use these COVID-19 tools and resources:
RESTRICTIONS — Use the COVID-19 Restriction Checker to find out what you can and can't do in your state or territory.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the COVID-19 Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2021