COVID-19 Vaccine

With the current rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia we have had numerous enquiries and questions from our customers, so we decided to compile some information for your convenience. Please note, this brief summary is not intended to be used for clinical decision making, we only want to provide basic information about the national COVID-19 vaccine strategy.

1) How much does it cost?
Nothing. The Australian government will cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine, so it will be free for all Australians, Permanent Residents and most Temporary Visa holders.

2) Is it compulsory to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, the vaccination will be voluntary. Some workplaces however may require you to have the vaccination for your job (e.g. aged care facilities) and it is likely that being vaccinated will have an implication on travel restrictions once international flights resume.

3) When can I get my COVID-19 vaccine?
The government has outlined who will be prioritised for the COVID-19 immunisation in the National Vaccine roll-out strategy:

The first stage will include high risk workers, the elderly (70 years+) and aged care staff as well as other high-risk or vulnerable individuals.
The second stage, which is expected to start around May 2021, will initially involve all adults of 50 years and above, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 18 years and above) as well as other critical and high-risk workers, followed by the rest of the adult population in Australia.

4) Where can I get my vaccination?
Community pharmacies, including Busy Bee Pharmacy, will be involved in the COVID-19 immunisation roll out from stage 2 onwards. All of our highly trained pharmacists are qualified to administer vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine as well as the COVID-19 vaccine and we at Busy Bee Pharmacy have committed to extra staff to ensure a swift and smooth process for the immunisation rollout.

5) Which COVID-19 vaccines will be available and what are the differences?
Australia has entered agreements to purchase several different COVID-19 vaccines, provided they are safe and effective as determined by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Before being approved, all medicines and vaccines must undergo extensive scientific testing by the TGA. Only after passing the strict safety and efficacy testing will they be approved for use in the Australian health system.

The main vaccines currently considered for the Australian vaccine roll out are:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: This vaccine was developed in Germany and uses new mRNA technology. It has been tested and approved in several other countries and has shown to be safe as well as induce a good and lasting immune response. The currently recommended schedule will require 2 doses given 3 weeks apart. This vaccine has now received provisional approval by the TGA and is currently used in the stage 1 immunisation rollout.

  • University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: This vaccine uses a viral vector to induce the immune response, which is an established technology and has been used in other vaccines before. Most of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be manufactured here in Australia by CSL with only the initial vaccine supply coming from overseas. This vaccine will likely be used for the bulk of immunisations in stage 2 and has now been provisionally approved by the TGA with a dosing schedule of 2 doses with a recommended minimum of 12 weeks apart, however a minimum of 4 weeks can be used if required.

  • Novavax: This vaccine uses yet another approach by administering protein fragments to achieve an immune reaction, a well-established technology that is currently also used in many other vaccines. Novavax is currently undergoing large trials and will be expected to receive approval by mid 2021 once it passes the TGA’s rigorous assessment and safety checks. Like the above-mentioned vaccines it is expected to require 2 doses for full immunisation.

    If you are interested in finding out more about the different technologies of COVID-19 vaccines please read here or here.

6) Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, you can not get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Similar to the flu shot you may however show mild flu-like symptoms after the vaccination, as your body’s immune system responds to the vaccine. People sometimes mistake these symptoms as an infection.

7) Are there any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?
As with most vaccines you may experience mild side effects in the days after your vaccination. This is a normal reaction as your immune system responds and adapts. You may experience soreness and mild pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms. These symptoms are generally mild and tend to only last for a few days.

8) Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
COVID-19 vaccines will only be approved by the TGA if they have been shown to be safe and effective. As of February 2021, approximately 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given worldwide and so far no unexpected safety concerns have arisen.

9) Can I still get COVID-19 after I have been vaccinated?
Even though it is very rare you can still get a COVID-19 infection after you have been vaccinated. Current research however shows that, if this is the case, the symptoms tend to be much milder and the risk of infecting others is greatly reduced.

10) How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last?
Unfortunately it is still uncertain how long the immunity will last since current vaccines have only been used in clinical settings from December 2020 onwards. The duration of immunity will also depend on how fast the virus can undergo changes in its structure and might even vary between different vaccinations. Early estimates suggest that immunity will last for at least 8 months for all vaccines.

11) Does the flu shot protect against COVID-19?
No, the common flu (influenza) and COVID-19 are caused by two different viruses. Being vaccinated against one of these will not give you immunity to the other virus.

12) Can I have the flu shot an the COVID-19 immunisation at the same time?
No. While there are many vaccines that can be administered at the same time it is recommended to wait at least 14 days between the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccines.