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Getting the COVID-19 vaccination

15-minute read

The COVID-19 vaccine is available to all Australians. Read about side effects, restrictions, travel and more.

If you develop symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately. Tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival if you have 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.

BOOK YOUR VACCINATION — Use the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to book your COVID vaccination or booster.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination?

People aged 5 years and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Four COVID-19 vaccines are available in Australia: the Comirnaty (Pfizer), Spikevax (Moderna), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) and Nuvaxovid (Novavax) vaccines.

People aged 5 and over can have the Pfizer vaccine.

People aged 6 years and over can have the Moderna vaccine.

People aged 18 years and over can have the Novavax vaccine.

People can have the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are:

  • 60 years old and over
  • 18 to 59 years old and have chosen to have the AstraZeneca vaccine after discussing this with their health professional

Vaccination is recommended for children aged 6 months to under 5 years with severe immunocompromise or disability, or if they have complex and/or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19. They will be able to have the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from early September 2022.

From early September 2022, people aged 5 years and older can get the Moderna vaccine.

Do I need a third dose, a booster dose or the additional 'winter' booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

Third doses

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary vaccination course in people aged 5 years and over who are severely immunocompromised. This is to address the risk of a suboptimal- or non-response to the standard 2-dose schedule.

Three primary doses are also recommended for children aged 6 months to less than 5 years who have severe immunocompromise. They will be able to have a paediatric formulation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from early September 2022.

The immunocompromising conditions and therapies for which a third dose is recommended are listed here.

An mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) is preferred to Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) for this third dose.

Third doses are not the same as booster doses.

For more information, read the ATAGI statement on third doses in people who are severely immunocompromised on the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.

Winter booster dose (fourth COVID-19 vaccine)

An additional 'winter' booster, or fourth dose, is recommended for people at increased risk of severe illness. These people should get their additional dose 3 months after their first booster dose.

This additional booster will be a fifth dose for people who are severely immunocompromised, since this group is recommended to receive 3 primary doses.

You should get a fourth dose if you are:

  • 50 years or older
  • a resident of an aged-care or disability-care facility
  • 16 years or older and severely immunocompromised (this will be a fifth dose)
  • 16 years or older and with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness
  • 16 years or older with disability, with a health condition that increases the risk of severe disease

People aged 30 to 49 years old who aren't at increased risk of severe illness (as per above categories) can receive a fourth dose if they wish.

Dose interval for the winter booster

This winter booster dose can be given from 3 months after the person has received their first booster dose, or from 3 months after COVID-19 infection if the infection occurred since the person’s first COVID-19 booster dose. If you are eligible for a winter booster dose, it's recommended that you get it as soon as you are due.

People who have been infected with COVID-19 should also still get their winter booster dose, after an interval of 3 months from infection, as prior infection alone will not provide enough protection from severe disease.

For adults aged 18 years and over, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are preferred for the winter dose. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be used if a person is unable, or refuses, to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The Novavax vaccine can be used if no other COVID-19 vaccine is suitable.

People aged 16 to 17 years can only have the Pfizer vaccine.

For more information, read the ATAGI statement on recommendations on a winter booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine on the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.

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.

Different states and territories may require certain workers to be vaccinated. Check your state or territory government’s Department of Health website for more information.

If you choose to get vaccinated against COVID-19, you will need to consent to this 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.

How much does COVID-19 vaccination cost?

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 getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

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

Vaccines are being delivered through a combination of Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics (CVCs), 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.

Need help booking your COVID-19 vaccine appointment?

Text Hey EVA to 0481 611 382. Someone from the National Coronavirus Helpline will call you back and find you a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

EVA (Easy Vaccine Access) is available every day from 7am to 10pm (AEST) with free interpreting assistance.

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

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

What will happen when I get vaccinated?

At your first vaccination appointment, you will:

  • need to 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 will also be monitored after receiving your second dose.

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

You can a free COVID-19 vaccination even if you don’t have Medicare.

If you 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) or a state- or territory-run vaccination clinic.

Everyone aged 5 and over is now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. Use the Vaccine Clinic Finder to book your appointment at covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au.

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).

To apply for an IHI, visit servicesaustralia.gov.au/. For more information, call Services Australia on 1300 361 457, Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm (local time). 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 have both a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot on the same day. Studies have shown that both vaccines produce an appropriate immune response. However, receiving 2 different vaccines on the same day may increase your chances of having a mild to moderate reaction.

COVID-19 vaccines can also be given at the same time as other vaccines, but there is limited research, so it is still recommended to wait a few days between vaccinations.

For children aged 6 months to less than 5 years of age receiving the Moderna paediatric COVID-19 vaccine, it is recommended to wait by 7-14 days before getting other vaccinations. However, this recommendation may change.

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

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

People aged 5 years and older with chronic health conditions can receive a COVID-19 vaccination. People with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems are at greater risk of more serious illness if they get COVID-19. However, people with certain medical conditions should speak with their healthcare provider for advice on their situation.

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

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

Pregnant people can receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at any stage of their pregnancy. If you are planning a pregnancy, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. You don’t need to avoid becoming pregnant or delay pregnancy after getting vaccinated.

Pfizer and Moderna are also recommended if you are breastfeeding. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after being vaccinated.

More information is available at Pregnancy, Birth and Baby.

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 first and 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.

Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine overseas

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

If you received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that is not available in Australia while overseas, you can have a different brand to complete the primary vaccination course in Australia.

More information on overseas immunisation is available via Services Australia.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2022


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