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Getting the COVID-19 vaccination

24-minute read

The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all Australians in 2021. Read about when vaccinations will be available, where you can get vaccinated and more.

If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history and any close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.

Why should I get vaccinated against COVID-19?

COVID-19 can cause serious, long-term health conditions, and sometimes death. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help protect yourself, your family and the people around you.

When enough people in the community are immunised, it's more difficult for the virus to spread. This helps to protect people who are too young or too old to be vaccinated and those who can't be vaccinated for health reasons.

Eventually, this would mean outbreaks are less likely — and the need for preventative measures, such as travel restrictions, would decrease.

COVID-19 vaccination is free for everyone living in Australia. This includes:

  • Australian citizens, permanent residents, holders of temporary visas and those not eligible for Medicare
  • refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders and those on bridging visas
  • people currently in detention facilities, including those whose visas have been cancelled

Healthcare providers won’t charge you any consultation fees associated with the administration of the vaccine.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination?

People aged 12 years and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

People aged less than 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine recommendations

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends Pfizer as the preferred vaccine for people aged 12 to 59 years.

ATAGI's recommendation is based on the slightly higher risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in younger people. TTS is a very rare blood-clotting condition that's been linked to the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine.

Pfizer is also recommended for people 16 years and above with:

  • a past history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)
  • a past history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)
  • a past history of idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis
  • anti-phospholipid syndrome with thrombosis
  • a history of certain reactions to the first dose of AstraZeneca, for example:
    • anaphylaxis to a previous dose of AstraZeneca, or to an ingredient of the vaccine
    • thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after the first dose of AstraZeneca
    • other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of AstraZeneca

Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine recommendations

AstraZeneca is the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 60 and older. Because older people can get very sick from COVID-19, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine vastly outweigh the risk of TTS for people aged 60 and older.

People who’ve had the first dose of AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects — and have no other contraindications — can be given the second dose. This includes adults under 60 years.

However, if you’re 18 to 59 and you haven’t had a COVID-19 vaccine dose yet, you can have AstraZeneca if you’ve weighed up the benefits of vaccination versus the rare risk of a serious side effect, and you provide informed consent — regardless of whether you fit into one of the current eligible groups.

In the context of a COVID-19 outbreak where the supply of Pfizer is limited, ATAGI recommends that eligible 18- to 59-year-olds who do not have immediate access to Pfizer should reassess the benefits of being vaccinated with AstraZeneca versus the rare risk of a serious side effect.

Talk to your doctor or immunisation provider to help inform your decision.

Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine recommendations

ATAGI recommends the Moderna vaccine for people aged 12 to 59 years.

You can make an appointment using the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

If you’re a residential aged-care or disability-care worker, you can use the Vaccine Clinic Finder or continue to wait to be contacted by your employer or care facility about booking your vaccination.

Depending on where you live, you may also be able to book an appointment via your state or territory government's website or COVID-19 hotline. Check your state or territory government's Department of Health website for more information.

Is COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

Vaccination is not compulsory for most Australians. But if you work in certain industries, you may need a vaccination to keep attending your workplace.

The Australian Government has made vaccination mandatory for residential aged-care workers. These workers must have had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by now to work at a residential aged-care facility. Aged-care facilities must report all vaccinations of their aged-care workers.

Different states and territories may have their own requirements for workers to be vaccinated including quarantine, healthcare, construction and education workers. Check your state or territory government’s Department of Health website for more information.

The Government aims to have as many Australians as possible immunised against COVID-19.

If you choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccination, this won’t affect your family's eligibility for Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A and the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). However, your child needs to receive their National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines (for those aged under 19 years) to be eligible for these benefits. Read more about the NIP here.

It’s possible that in the future you’ll need a COVID-19 vaccination to travel to certain destinations or to work in high-risk environments. If so, there’ll be exemptions for people who are unable to be vaccinated.

If you choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, you will need to consent to having one when you attend your COVID-19 vaccination appointment.

‘Consent’ means giving permission for someone to do something. The person giving you a COVID-19 vaccination must ask if you consent to being vaccinated.

They will also need to tell you:

  • why you should get the vaccine
  • why it’s safe
  • what will happen when you have it

You can talk to your doctor before you decide to have the COVID-19 vaccination. You may want to ask them questions, such as:

  • how it might affect any health problems you have
  • if there are any risks for you

You can also ask questions of the person who will vaccinate you. You can ask questions such as:

  • what will happen when I get the vaccination?
  • why do I need it?
  • how will I feel after I have it?
  • what could go wrong?
  • what will happen if I say no?

You can consent in different ways. You can:

  • say ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • use sign language
  • use pictures
  • sign a consent form

You can say ‘no’ if you don’t want the vaccination.

You can also bring someone you trust with you to your vaccination appointment. If you can’t consent, your guardian can consent for you. A guardian is a person who acts and makes decisions for you. Your guardian might be a member of your family, a friend or chosen for you by the government.

Consent on behalf of a child or an adolescent

Generally, a parent or legal guardian of a child can consent to that child being vaccinated.

A child or adolescent may be mature enough to understand vaccination, and the risks and benefits associated with it. These young people may have the capacity to consent under certain circumstances.

As states and territories manage consent to medical treatment for children differently, you’ll need to check the rules with your state or territory immunisation health service. Go to health.gov.au. Click on ‘Health topics’ and search ‘immunisation’.

What happens if a resident at an aged-care facility doesn't consent to the COVID-19 vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary for everyone in Australia — this includes aged-care residents. This means people can choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you are a resident in an aged-care facility and you decide not to have the COVID-19 vaccination, this will not affect your access to safe and quality care.

Valid consent is needed before each COVID-19 vaccination is given. Your residential aged-care facility will support you in making an informed decision about vaccination. For some residents, consent will need to be sought from a substitute decision maker.

All residents, including those with a level of cognitive decline, should be included in conversations about consent to understand their preferences.

How much does COVID-19 vaccination cost?

COVID-19 vaccination is free to everyone living in Australia. This includes:

  • Australian citizens, permanent residents, holders of temporary visas and those not eligible for Medicare
  • refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders and those on bridging visas
  • people currently in detention facilities including those whose visas have been cancelled

Healthcare providers won’t charge you any consultation fees associated with administration of the vaccine.

How do I make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination?

Vaccines are being delivered through a combination of Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics (CVSs), general practices (GPs), state- and territory-run vaccination clinics, pharmacies and Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services.

Residential aged-care and disability-care facilities may receive vaccines through a combination of delivery options. This includes in-reach vaccination providers who deliver the vaccine on site.

The easiest way to make an appointment is by using the Vaccine Clinic Finder. This free online tool will ask you some questions to find vaccine appointments that suit your needs. You can then find clinics near you that offer a COVID-19 vaccine and book your appointment.

If there are no appointments available, try again as more appointments will become available. New vaccination sites are being added to the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

You can also ask your GP or your local pharmacy if they’re participating in the vaccine rollout.

If you were in Phase 1a of the vaccine rollout — and are an aged-care or disability-care worker or resident — your vaccination will likely be organised by your employer or your facility. You can also make your own booking using the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to book an appointment via your state or territory government’s website or COVID-19 hotline. Check your state or territory government’s health department website for more information.

For more information, read ‘How will I get my COVID-19 vaccine?’ on the Department of Health website.

Will I need to have a COVID-19 vaccination to go to a residential aged-care facility?

You don’t need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to visit a resident at an aged-care facility. However, all visitors must continue to follow restrictions — even if residents and staff of the facility have been vaccinated.

However, it is mandatory for residential aged-care workers to have had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by now to work at a residential aged-care facility. Speak to your employer.

For more information, see ‘Is COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

For up-to-date information on aged care and vaccination, check the Department of Health website.

How do disability-care workers and residents get their vaccination?

Disability-care residents and workers can arrange to have a COVID-19 vaccination now. Both workers and residents can get the vaccine at their disability-care facility. They’ll generally be contacted by their employer or their facility to arrange this.

A Commonwealth vaccine in-reach team will provide the vaccine to disability-care residents.

Adults with a disability and those with a specified underlying medical condition (but who don’t reside in a disability-care facility) can also arrange to have a vaccination. You can make your own booking via the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

What will happen when I get vaccinated?

At your first vaccination appointment, you will:

  • need to provide proof of your eligibility and confirm you agree to be vaccinated
  • need to bring your Medicare card if you have one
  • have a clinical screening — which typically involves checking that you don’t have a fever, cough or other symptoms
  • receive your first vaccination dose
  • be given follow-up information
  • if you use My Health Record, you can check your record to see when your second vaccination is due
  • be monitored for around 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have any reactions to the vaccine — it’s common practice to wait after receiving a vaccine, including the flu vaccine

At your second appointment, you will be screened again to make sure you don’t have symptoms. You’ll also be monitored after receiving your second dose.

Steps for vaccination

Image provided by Australian Government Department of Health

How do I get vaccinated if I don't have Medicare?

If you currently don’t have a Medicare account — and you are eligible — you can register at Services Australia.

If you are not eligible for Medicare, you should have your vaccination at a Commonwealth Vaccination Clinic (CVC) — formerly known as GP-led respiratory clinics — or a state- or territory-run vaccination clinic.

If you need proof of your immunisation, you can register for an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI). While an IHI is not mandatory, it’s preferred. An IHI is a unique number that is used to identify you for healthcare purposes. It also allows your vaccinations to be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

When you’ve applied for an IHI you can have a My Health Record — an online summary of your health information, including your immunisation history.

To apply for an IHI, visit servicesaustralia.gov.au/. For more information, call the Department of Human Services on 1300 361 457, Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm (local time). You’ll need to provide certified copies of proof of identification documents.

To apply for a My Health Record, visit digitalhealth.gov.au, or call the My Health Record helpline on 1800 723 471, 24/7. Applying for a My Health Record can take up to an additional 10 business days and you will need to provide certified copies of proof of identification documents.

For more information, see ‘How do I access my vaccination certificate and how do I prove vaccination without Medicare?

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine (such as the flu shot) at the same time?

You can’t have a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine — including the flu shot — on the same day. You should wait at least 7 days between having a dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine and any other vaccine.

You aren’t required to have COVID-19 and flu vaccines in any particular order. The order will likely depend on vaccine availability, so you should have whichever vaccine you can access first.

If you’re having the Pfizer vaccine, this also means you may be able to receive another vaccination in between your 2 doses, if appropriate.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more advice on when to schedule your vaccinations.

In special cases, your healthcare provider may consider shortening the time period between the different vaccines — or they may suggest you receive the vaccines on the same day. This will only be considered if:

  • there’s a high risk that you’ll be exposed to one of the diseases
  • it’s highly likely that the opportunity of receiving either vaccine will be missed
  • by the time COVID-19 vaccine doses become available to a certain population group, the flu season is imminent

If this is proposed, you’ll be counselled about any possible adverse events from each vaccine. You’ll be advised to report any adverse events.

Can people with chronic health conditions have COVID-19 vaccines?

People with specific underlying medical conditions can arrange to have a COVID-19 vaccination now. However, people with certain underlying medical conditions should speak with their healthcare provider for advice on their particular situation.

ATAGI has noted evidence of a very rare but serious side effect after the AstraZeneca vaccination involving blood clots with low blood platelet counts — a syndrome called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS). There is potentially increased risk of TTS following AstraZeneca vaccination in those under 60 years. Therefore, ATAGI recommends that people aged 60 and over receive the AstraZeneca vaccine and eligible 12- to 59-year-olds receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

However, people aged 18 and older can have AstraZeneca if they have the following medical conditions and they have weighed up the benefits versus the rare risk of a serious side effect:

  • a history of venous thromboembolism in typical sites, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism
  • a predisposition to form blood clots, such as those with Factor V Leiden, or other non-immune thrombophilic disorders
  • a family history of clots or clotting conditions
  • currently receiving anticoagulant medications
  • a history of ischaemic heart disease or cerebrovascular accident
  • a current or past history of thrombocytopenia

The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people aged 12 years and older with the following medical conditions:

  • a past history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)
  • a past history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)
  • a past history of idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis
  • antiphospholipid syndrome with thrombosis
  • a history of certain reactions to the first dose of AstraZeneca, for example:
    • anaphylaxis to a previous dose of AstraZeneca, or to an ingredient of the vaccine
    • thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after the first dose of AstraZeneca
    • other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of AstraZeneca

ATAGI has also reviewed available evidence on specific medical conditions in children that have been identified to be associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

Therefore, ATAGI recommends that the following groups of 12- to 15-year-old children be prioritised for vaccination using Pfizer:

  • children with specified medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19 — including asthma, diabetes, obesity, cardiac and circulatory congenital anomalies, neuro developmental disorders, epilepsy, immuno-compromised and trisomy 21

Overseas studies show a very small risk of myocarditis and pericarditis in people who have received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, such as Pfizer. People who have the following pre-existing cardiac conditions can still have Pfizer:

  • coronary artery disease
  • myocardial infarction
  • stable heart failure
  • arrhythmias
  • rheumatic fever
  • rheumatic heart disease, or RHD
  • Kawasaki Disease
  • most congenital heart disease
  • people with implantable cardiac devices

People with a history of any of the following conditions can receive an mRNA vaccine — such as Pfizer or Moderna — but they should consult a cardiologist about the best timing of vaccination and whether any additional precautions are recommended:

  • inflammatory cardiac illness — for example, myocarditis, pericarditis and endocarditis
  • current acute rheumatic fever
  • people aged 12 to 29 years with dilated cardiomyopathy
  • complex or severe congenital heart disease including single ventricle (Fontan) circulation
  • acute decompensated heart failure
  • cardiac transplant recipients

For more information, see the Australian’s Government’s COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for people with immunocompromise.

Can older or elderly people have the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, older people are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved Pfizer for people aged 16 years and older. There is no upper age limit.

However, Pfizer is being prioritised for people aged 16 to 59. This is because the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) — which is linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine — is slightly higher in younger adults.

People aged 60 and over are being offered AstraZeneca. Those aged over 85, in particular, are extremely susceptible to the impacts of the COVID-19 infection and the benefits of vaccination are considered to outweigh any risks.

Access may differ between states and territories so you should check your state health department for the latest information.

The TGA and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) will continue to monitor the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines as they are rolled out in Australia and internationally.

For more information, see About the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine.

Can pregnant or breastfeeding women have the COVID-19 vaccine?

Planning a pregnancy

If you are planning a pregnancy, it’s recommended that you have either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — the preferred vaccines for people aged 12 to 59.

However, you can still have AstraZeneca if you are 18 to 59, have weighed up the risks and benefits, and have provided consent. You should talk to your GP or vaccination provider to help inform your decision.

You don’t need to avoid becoming pregnant before or after vaccination.

For more information, see About the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine.

During pregnancy

If you are already pregnant and aged 12 or older, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is recommended for you at any stage of pregnancy.

It’s recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19. This is the advice of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

The risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby.

Global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant women has not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — given at any stage of pregnancy. There is also evidence that vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding may offer protection to babies.

If you’ve already received a first dose of AstraZeneca, your second dose can be either AstraZeneca , Pfizer or Moderna.

How to book your vaccination:

If you have a specific health concern or you would prefer a full health assessment, you should book your vaccination through your GP or healthcare provider.

You can get vaccinated at:

  • state and territory-operated Pfizer clinics
  • certain Commonwealth Vaccine Clinics that offer Pfizer
  • participating general practices (GPs) that offer Pfizer
  • participating pharmacies that offer Moderna
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services that offer Pfizer

You can make your booking via the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

To receive the vaccine, you’ll need to provide evidence of your eligibility. You can do this through:

  • your regular GP’s records
  • your MyHealth Record (if you have one)
  • a referral from a GP, other treating health professional or midwife
  • alternative medical records, such as the NSW ‘yellow card’

Where none of these are available, you can complete the Australian Government Eligibility Declaration Form.

Breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — the preferred vaccines for people aged 12 to 59. However, you can still have the AstraZeneca vaccine if the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks for you.

You don’t need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination. There is evidence that vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding may offer protection to babies.

For more information, visit health.gov.au.

Can I get the first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination in a different state or country?

You don’t have to get your second dose at the same location. This includes if you are travelling interstate.

Your first dose of the vaccine will be recorded in the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), so your vaccination provider will be able to check which vaccine you received, and when you received that first dose.

To be fully vaccinated, you must have 2 doses of the same vaccine, given at the appropriate intervals.

  • If you get Pfizer, you'll need 2 doses, administered 21 days apart
  • If you get Moderna, you’ll need 2 doses, administered 28 days apart
  • If you get AstraZeneca, you'll need 2 doses, administered 4 to 12 weeks apart. However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation

Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine overseas

Australians who get their first vaccine dose overseas and return to Australia before their second dose will be able to get their second dose in Australia, if the first dose was for a vaccine available in Australia such as the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines.

If you’ve had these vaccines in another country, you can have them added to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). Your documents need to be in English and show which vaccine you’ve had. You’ll need to take these documents to a recognised vaccination provider in Australia to have them added to your immunisation history statement (IHS).

If your documents aren’t in English, you need to get them translated. You can use a free translating service on the on the Department of Home Affairs website if you’re settling in Australia or if you’re already living here permanently.

At this time, COVID-19 vaccinations received overseas that have not been approved in Australia can’t be added to the AIR. But this is under consideration and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are looking into whether non-approved vaccines can be added to the AIR in the future.

More information on overseas immunisation is available via Services Australia.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine from my GP or local pharmacy?

Yes, providing your GP or pharmacist has registered to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program.

You can find a vaccination provider and make an appointment using the Vaccine Clinic Finder. It will ask you some questions, then you can then look up clinics near you that offer a COVID-19 vaccine and book your appointment.

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.

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Last reviewed: September 2021


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