The Practice will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations ON MONDAY 12th APRIL, 2021. Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccination are answered below.
What is COVID-19?
The illness known as "COVID-19" is a contagious disease caused by a virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 ("SARS-CoV-2"). COVID-19 can spread quickly and widely, and has caused the deaths of more than 1.9 million people worldwide, and over 900 people in Australia.
Why get vaccinated?
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against infectious diseases, by training your immune system to recognise and therefore more effectively fight specific viruses.
As well as protecting yourself, widespread vaccination also slows the spread of COVID-19 in the community. This makes mass outbreaks less likely, and will reduce the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on the community. It will also reduce the need for preventive measures, including border closures, lockdowns, and travel restrictions.
Is the COVID-19 vaccination safe?
Yes. This is because -
- there is NO SUCH THING as a medication, treatment, procedure, or vaccination that is "One Hundred Percent Safe", including the COVID-19 vaccine;
- HOWEVER for all of these things, it is a question of balancing the RISKS versus the BENEFITS; and
- overall, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination OUTWEIGH the risks.
For example, at the time of publication (9th April 2021) -
- there have been 29,385 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, unfortunately resulting in 909 deaths (approximately 3% of cases);
- in the United States, the Centres for Disease Control ("CDC") has received reports of 2,794 deaths following over 167 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine (0.00167% of cases), with "a review of clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records revealing no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths."
For further information, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html (accessed 09/04/2021).
Does the vaccine have side effects?
Potentially, yes. Like any vaccine, it is possible to have side effects after receiving a vaccination dose. Most side effects last no more than a couple of days, with most patients recovering without any problems.
The most common side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine include -
- Very common (> 1 in 10 chance) systemic side effects: Headache, nausea, muscle pain, joint pains, fatigue, malaise, and fevers;
- Very common (> 1 in 10 chance) localised side effects: injection site tenderness, pain, warmth and itch;
- Common (1 in 100 to 1 in 10 chance) localised side effects: Swelling and redness at the injection site; and
- Very rare: Unusual blood clots following vaccination.
Some people will experience more significant flu-like symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine compared to other vaccinations, and may need time away from normal activities. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, these are more common after the first dose.
If you have any concerns about any symptoms after your vaccine, you can either -
- discuss your concerns with your doctor;
- call the National Coronavirus Helpline, 24 hours a day, on 1800 020 080; or
- use the COVID-19 vaccine side effects symptom checker (click button at left).
What about reports of blood clots ("thrombosis") following vaccination?
This is an important issue, which the Government, Departments of Health, and Doctors are monitoring closely. Following one report of blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination in Australia (on 02/04/2021), the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation ("ATAGI") has launched an investigation, which is ongoing.
Bloods clots following COVID-19 vaccination have been most commonly reported 4-20 days after vaccination, and have generally been severe, requiring hospitalisation. Patients should be particularly alert to severe, persistent headaches that are different to their "usual" pattern, and which do not settle with paracetamol or other painkillers. If these symptoms occur, patients should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Anyone attending their GP or a hospital with any concerns should let their treating clinician know the details of the vaccine they received.
The risk of blood clots is currently thought to be less than one in four hundred thousand. As a result, ATAGI has not issued any new directions regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, or any extra precautions that should be exercised to prevent blood clots.
UPDATE (08/04/2021): The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation released a statement on 08/04/2021, which reads (in part) -
- "ATAGI notes further evidence of a rare but serious side effect involving thrombosis (clotting) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) following receipt of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
- ATAGI recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred over COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in Adults aged under 50 years. This recommendation is based on the increasing risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in older adults (and hence a higher benefit from vaccination) and a potentially increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following AstraZeneca vaccine in those under 50 years.
- COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be used in adults under 50 years where the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.
- People who have had the first dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 50 years."
For further information, see: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-astrazeneca-vaccine-in-response-to-new-vaccine-safety-concerns
Are unwanted blood clots common?
The risk of unwanted blood clots (venous thrombo-embolism) following the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is approximately 4-6 per million (i.e. 0.04 - 0.06 per 10,000) (NOTE 1).
Compared to this, the risk of unwanted blood clots is -
- approximately 6 per 10,000 in the general community;
- approximately 12-18 per 10,000 in women taking the oral contraceptive pill;
- approximately 20-30 per 10,000 in women who are pregnant or in the post-partum period. (NOTE 2)
NOTE 1: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-astrazeneca-vaccine-in-response-to-new-vaccine-safety-concerns
NOTE 2: From: Bateson, D., Butcher, B.F., Donovan C., et al., "Risk of venous thromboembolism in women taking the combined oral contraceptive: A systemic review and meta-analysis." AFP, Vol. 45, No-12, Jan-Feb 2016.
Am I eligible for vaccination?
Under the Commonwealth Government's vaccination roll-out program, people will be eligible for vaccination based on their order of priority based on certain risk factors. Under "stage 1B" of the vaccination rollout, eligible persons include -
- anyone aged 70 and over;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 55 and over;
- health care workers;
- adults with an underlying medical condition or significant disability (NOTE 3); and
- critical and high risk workers including defence, police, fire and emergency services and meat processing (NOTE 4).
If you're unsure if you're eligible for vaccination or not, please discuss it with your doctor, or use the online vaccine eligibility checker (click button at right).
NOTE 3: People will need to provide proof of these conditions to demonstrate their eligibility for vaccination via My health record, a health professional referral if required, or a declaration form.
NOTE 4: Workers will need to provide proof of occupation to demonstrate their eligibility.
Which vaccine will I get?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration ("TGA") has approved two COVID-19 vaccines for use in Australia, being the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine. All general practices in Australia are administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This is because the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires storage at -70 deg. C., which is not feasible in general practice.
Do I have to get vaccinated?
NO. Vaccination against COVID-19 is OPTIONAL.
How much will vaccination cost?
NOTHING. COVID-19 vaccination is provided as a bulk-billed serivce, meaning there is NO OUT-OF-POCKET COST.
How do I get vaccinated?
COVID-19 vaccination will ONLY be administered during specific vaccination appointments. Please call the practice on (07) 3893 0093 to make an appointment. PLEASE NOTE: COVID-19 vaccination appointments cannot be made online via "Hotdoc".
Can I get vaccinated during my regular appointment?
NO. Unlike influenza vaccination, the Government has provided only a small number of vaccine doses to the practice (currently only fifty each week). As a result, COVID-19 vaccination will NOT be possible during appointments for other conditions ("opportunistic vaccination").
Do I need to do anything else to prevent COVID-19 transmission?
YES. Whether you are vaccinated or not, it is still important to maintain hand hygiene (frequent washing with soap and water, or alcohol based sanitiser), practice appropriate social distancing, isolate if unwell with symptoms of respiratory illness (cough, runny nose, shortness of breath etc.), and use face masks as directed.
Where can I get more information about COVID-19 vaccination?
Further information can be gained by talking to your doctor, or by clicking on the following links to the Australian Government Department of Health -
Does the COVID-19 vaccine contain any microchips, tracking devices, act as a cover-up for DNA collection, alter my DNA, or connect me to the internet?
No, No, No, No and No.
(Note that the answers to these, and other questions, can be found in full on the Australian Government website - https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/is-it-true)