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COVID-19 vaccines

Which COVID-19 vaccines will be available in NSW?

For information about Australia's COVID-19 vaccine agreements, visit the Australian Department of Health website.

Vaccine safety and efficacy

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Any COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia will be safe and effective. Before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in Australia, it must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) rigorous assessment and approval processes. This includes assessment of the vaccine's safety, quality and effectiveness.

How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

The Australian Government is following rigorous regulatory procedures to ensure that any vaccines supplied in Australia are effective and safe for use. Advice on the expected effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine will be available from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as vaccines are approved for use in Australia. For further information, visit the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine contain the live COVID-19 virus or can I get sick with COVID-19 from the vaccine?

None of the vaccines currently provisionally approved or being reviewed for use in Australia contain a live virus that can cause COVID-19. This means that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

What are the potential side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

As part of regulatory assessment, the Therapeutic Goods Administration considers information about possible side effects. For a vaccine to be registered for use in Australia, the benefits must outweigh the risks. All vaccines can cause side effects. Usually any side effects are mild and temporary.

Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines have reported temporary side effects typical of vaccines, such as pain or redness at the injection site, as well as mild to moderate fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches and chills. These side effects may be more common after the second dose.

A small number of people may have more severe side effects—defined as side effects affecting a person's ability to do their normal daily activities. These side effects usually only last a day or two after getting the vaccine. Monitoring of vaccine-related side effects will continue after a COVID-19 vaccine has been registered.

Will the COVID-19 vaccines be effective on new variants of the virus?

Clinical trials, so far, are showing that the COVID-19 vaccines induce antibodies that are likely to be able to respond to most minor changes in the virus' gene sequence. Australia will continue to closely monitor international developments regarding the COVID-19 variants of concern and will continue to perform careful genetic examination of the virus found in local cases.

What is herd immunity, and will the COVID-19 vaccines achieve this?

Herd immunity occurs when enough people have developed sufficient immunity to prevent the disease easily being transmitted from one person to another. Even before herd immunity is achieved, most of the population may be able to be protected from developing symptoms from COVID-19 if the vaccine is sufficiently protective against disease, and enough people in the population are vaccinated. Protection from disease is not the same as protection from infection, or prevention of transmission.

Achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 is a long-term goal. It will require a large proportion of the population to be vaccinated. The exact proportion that will need to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus depends on the characteristics of the vaccine, such as the vaccine's ability to stop transmission, and the duration of protection provided. It also depends on how many people are able to be vaccinated. We may need to wait for a vaccine that is able to be given to children, pregnant women, and people with some medical conditions, for sufficient coverage in the Australian population for herd immunity to be achieved. We also need to carefully monitor the COVID-19 virus to see whether any of the variants of concern are able to escape from the protection that the COVID-19 vaccines provide.

As we learn more about the characteristics of COVID-19 vaccines and how well they protect against the disease and spread of the virus, many studies will be done to monitor how much impact the vaccines have and whether herd immunity is being developed over time. What we do know is that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines show they are very good at protecting against severe illness and death.

Vaccine availability and prioritisation

When will COVID-19 vaccines be available to people in NSW?

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for individuals 16 years and older. This vaccine is being made available in NSW in a phased rollout which commenced on 22 Feburary 2021. As doses will initially be limited, the vaccine will be first made available to people who are most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 or who have the highest risk of being exposed to the virus.

On 16 February 2021, the TGA provisionally approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia for individuals 18 years and older. The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to become available in March for those eligible in the first phases of the vaccine rollout.

The TGA is reviewing other potential COVID-19 vaccines for use in Australia. COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available to the general population later in 2021. As each person will require two doses of the vaccine, it will take time for every person who is able to have the vaccine to be adequately immunised against the virus.

Who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine first?

For information about who will receive the vaccine, visit the Australian Department of Health website. As doses will initially be limited, the vaccine will be first made available to people who are most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 or who have the highest risk of being exposed to, or spreading, the virus.

In NSW, the first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will include:

  • Health care workers working in locations with a higher risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, such as emergency departments, COVID-19 testing clinics, and COVID-19 wards
  • Staff working in designated quarantine facilities
  • Residents and staff of residential aged and disability care facilities.

Who is deciding who gets access to the COVID-19 vaccine first?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has provided advice to the Australian Government on which groups should be prioritised for the first doses for possible COVID-19 vaccination in Australia. The advice provided to the Australian Government is consistent with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information, read ATAGI's advice to Government on priority population groups for COVID-19 vaccination.

Eligibility, cost and access 

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be free?

The vaccine will be free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents, and most visa-holders.

If I'm not an Australian Citizen will I be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Permanent residents and most visa-holders will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

How will I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

As there will initially be limited doses of the vaccine available in Australia, the priority groups in Phase 1a will be offered the vaccines at designated vaccination hubs, or in residential aged care or disability care settings.

In NSW, these vaccination hubs will be located at selected public hospitals with the required storage, vaccine handling and administration capacity. Once more doses become available, it is expected that one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be available for the wider population through usual immunisation providers, including GP practices, GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal health services.

Will COVID-19 vaccination be recommended for everyone?

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is generally available, most people in the Australian community will be able to be immunised against COVID-19. There may be some groups of people for whom vaccination may not be recommended, such as people with specific medical conditions. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is reviewing available data on the potential COVID-19 vaccines and will provide recommendations on who should and should not be vaccinated.

How many times will I need to have the COVID-19 vaccine?

For the COVID-19 vaccines that are provisionally approved or likely to be available in Australia, each person will need to receive two doses of the vaccine to be adequately immunised against COVID-19. 

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory in Australia?

Australians have a great record in being immunised. The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary, universal and free. When a safe and effective vaccine is available in Australia for COVID-19, the Government aims to have as many Australians as possible choose to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

If people choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccine, this will not affect their family's eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part A or childcare fee assistance which only includes National Immunisation Program vaccines for those aged younger than 20.

It is possible that in future, vaccination against COVID-19 might become a requirement for travel to certain destinations or for people working in certain high-risk workplaces. If this becomes the case, there will be exemptions in place for people who are unable to be vaccinated.

Influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations

Will the COVID-19 vaccine also protect me against the flu?

The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against influenza (flu). It will be important to get a flu vaccination next flu season. Flu vaccination reduces your chances of getting influenza, which means it reduces the risk of you having influenza at the same time as a COVID-19 infection. Being vaccinated against the flu also helps to protect others, particularly people who are more vulnerable to infections (e.g. elderly people). The flu vaccination for next flu season is expected to become available in NSW from May 2021.

Follow the guidance of your GP or heath professional about when is best to schedule each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine(two doses in total) and the flu vaccine.

See the Seasonal influenza immunisation FAQs for more information.

Current as at: Tuesday 23 February 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW