FAQs

Last Updated: 22 Jul 2021 2:46pm

These FAQs have been prepared by the Tasmanian Department of Health.

They include material originally developed by the Australian Government, the Melbourne Vaccination Education Centre and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

Latest AstraZeneca advice.

The vaccine program



All Tasmanians aged 16 and over will be able to get a vaccine in 2021.

In Tasmania, everyone will have the opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccine this year. Vaccines will be given in stages, prioritising those at highest risk first.

People received the vaccine in the first stage were identified using public health, medical and epidemiological evidence on who is at higher risk of getting COVID-19 or getting very sick from it.

You can find out when you are eligible by visiting Vaccine Eligibility

Vaccinations are available from:

  • Tasmanian Government Community Clinics
  • Some GP clinics
  • GP-led respiratory clinics
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

Find out more by visiting Book Your Vaccine

For the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, it is recommended that the second dose is given three weeks (21 days) after the first dose.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, it is recommended that the vaccine is administered 12 weeks apart. This interval gives the greatest protection.

You will be booked in for your second vaccine when you get your first vaccine.

Health professionals who have completed COVID-19 vaccination training will give the COVID-19 vaccine to people.

Tasmania’s General Practices are essential partners in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Selected General Practices have been vaccinating since 22 March 2021.

General Practices who do not participate in the earlier phases may still be involved in later phases of the vaccine rollout. All General Practices who meet requirements will have the opportunity to participate in the vaccine rollout as more vaccines become available.

Tasmania has also sought expressions of interest from registered nurses and enrolled nurses to help deliver the rollout program.

The Pfizer vaccine is preferred in people who are under 60 years of age, or for people aged over 16 years of age with:

  • a history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis,
  • a history or heparin-induced thrombocytopenia,
  • a history of idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis,
  • a history of anti-phospholipid syndrome with thrombosis, or
  • Contraindications to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine:
    • Anaphylaxis to a previous dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or an ingredient of the vaccine
    • Thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia after the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, and
    • Other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

People under the age of 60 who have already received their first dose of AstraZeneca without a serious adverse event can safely receive their second dose of AstraZeneca.  For more information, see FAQs – AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is not recommended in those with a history of anaphylaxis to Pfizer vaccine or its components, including PEG.

Yes. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) recommend that pregnant people are routinely offered Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. This is because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for a pregnant person and their unborn baby.

Global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant people has not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. There is also evidence of antibody in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity.

Pregnant people are encouraged to discuss getting vaccinated with their health professional. People trying to get pregnant do not need to delay getting vaccinated or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.

No, you will not be able to choose which COVID-19 vaccine you are offered.

The Pfizer vaccine is preferred in those aged under 60 years of age. See ‘is there anyone who should not get the vaccine/which vaccine should I get.’

Initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines will be limited, and whichever vaccine is available in Tasmania will be first offered to people with the highest risk of getting, spreading or having severe illness from COVID-19 and then more broadly to people of eligible age in the rest of the community (i.e. aged 16 to 59 for Pfizer, and aged 60 or older for AstraZeneca) as per the Australian Government’s national rollout strategy.

If you are eligible for a vaccine, you can find out where you can get vaccinated and book an appointment by visiting Book Your Vaccine.

Vaccine information

The vaccines currently approved for use in Australia are:

  • Pfizer: this vaccine is recommended for people 16 years and older.
  • AstraZeneca: this vaccine is the preferred vaccine for people 60 years and older. For more information about the AstraZeneca vaccine, see FAQs – AstraZeneca vaccine.

Both vaccines approved for use in Australia protect against symptomatic COVID-19, including severe COVID-19 and death from COVID-19.

The virus that causes COVID-19 (Sars-CoV-2) is studded with spike proteins that it uses to enter human cells. COVID-19 vaccines present our immune system with a part of the virus, the spike protein, so that it is familiar with the virus and able to mount a robust immune response if it encounters the virus in the future.

Are the vaccines effective against the new strains of COVID-19?

Vaccine developers are closing monitoring the new variants of concern.

It is anticipated that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines should be effective against the newer strains of COVID-19. However, ongoing studies are underway to confirm this. If needed, it is possible to slightly change the vaccine composition quickly to respond to the new variants. This is done every year for the influenza vaccine, to keep pace with natural evolution of the circulating influenza virus.

This is because the vaccines work by inducing what is known as a "polyclonal" response – a collection of immunological response to many different parts of the COVID "spike" protein. In the new variants only a limited part of the spike protein is changed, and much is unchanged. So the vaccines should still work against the main, unchanged parts to the COVID-19 spike protein.

Yes. All COVID-19 vaccines for use must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) rigorous approval processes. The TGA assesses any COVID-19 vaccine for safety, quality and effectiveness before it can be supplied in Australia. There is ongoing rigorous safety surveillance after approval by the TGA to ensure the vaccines remain safe.

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged ≥16 years to protect against COVID-19.

The Pfizer vaccine is preferred over AstraZeneca in people aged <60 years and in people with a past history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, heparin induced thrombocytopaenia, idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis, anti-phospholipid syndrome with thrombosis, or a history of anaphylaxis to AstraZeneca or its components (including polysorbate 80).

This preferential recommendation is based on the risk of TTS appearing to be higher in younger adults than in older adults, younger adults having a lower likelihood of having severe outcomes from COVID-19 compared to older adults, and theoretical concerns that a past history of the listed clotting conditions may increase the risk of TTS.

For more information, visit The TGA website

Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

While the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines has been quicker than usual, safety remains the top priority. Hundreds of millions of people are suffering from the ongoing social and economic devastation caused by the pandemic. The urgency of this crisis means that globally all available resources and efforts are being directed towards finding a safe and effective vaccine, and this includes in Australia.

In the past, the process of developing and licensing a vaccine has taken many years, but this has been shortened to within 12–18 months of the virus being discovered.

Some of the reasons behind this rapid progress include:

  • Unprecedented funding and collaboration between vaccine developers and governments around the world. Considerable financial risks were taken to build manufacturing facilities before a vaccine was even available, thereby speeding up the distribution process.
  • Technology has evolved, making vaccine development faster than in the past. Vaccine development requires an understanding of a virus’s genetic code. New technologies have enabled researchers to rapidly identify the genetic code of the COVID-19 virus, soon after the virus emerged. This allowed scientists around the world to start work on building vaccines.
  • Clinical trials progress more quickly if a disease is widespread, as is the case with COVID-19 in many countries, as a significant difference between the unvaccinated and vaccinated groups can be detected sooner than for a rare disease.

Importantly, COVID-19 vaccines must pass through the exact same rigor and phases of clinical trials as other vaccines and do not miss any important safety and quality checks or steps along the way. Approval is only given if the vaccine works and meets the appropriate safety requirements.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ensures there is an independent quality assessment of every batch of vaccine supplied in Australia before it can be distributed.

Further information on the development and testing process can be found at Australia’s vaccine agreements | Australian Government Department of Health while more information on the TGA batch assessment process can be found at Batch release assessment of COVID-19 vaccines | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Some people may experience minor side effects following vaccination, similar to those experienced following a flu vaccine. Common side effects include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site as well as more general side-effects such as fever, chills, headache and tiredness.

Most general symptoms are mild to moderate, occur within the first three days after vaccination, and resolve within 1–2 days of when they start.

A serious allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis is extremely rare and usually occur within the first 15 minutes following vaccination. This is why you are asked to remain at the vaccination clinic for observation for at least 15 minutes following vaccination, to ensure prompt medical care in the rare event of a serious allergic reaction.

There has been a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a syndrome called thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopenia (TTS). This is an extremely rare blood clotting syndrome where there is also low platelets.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has reviewed its advice on the use of AstraZeneca. From 17 June, the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer is preferred over COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in adults aged under 60 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 60 years.

For more information, please refer to the Australian Government Department of Health: Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

All vaccines have side effects. Usually these are mild and temporary. Most side effects occur in the first few days after vaccination and go away without treatment in 1-2 days.

If you have symptoms that are persistent or concern you, you should see your health care provider.

Symptoms of the rare blood clotting syndrome, thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia (TTS), that have been linked to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may include:

  • neurological symptoms, such as severe and persistent headaches that don’t go away with paracetamol or blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • leg swelling
  • persistent abdominal (belly) pain
  • shortness of breath
  • tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

Patient information sheet on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)

See your usual healthcare provider if:

  • You are concerned about new or unexpected symptoms
  • You have symptoms that are not going away, or getting worse, after a few days
  • Call 000 (Triple Zero) in the event of a medical emergency

Adverse events can be reported to Public Health Services. This can be done by a medical professional or you can report adverse reactions by completing the Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) Reporting Form and submitting to tas.aefi@health.tas.gov.au or via fax on (03) 6173 0821. You can also discuss an adverse event report with the Immunisation team by contacting the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) Reporting Form Word format

Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) Reporting Form PDF format

No. The recommended minimum interval between COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines (including influenza vaccine) is 7 days. This may be shortened (including same day administration) in special circumstances.

Less than 48 hours after vaccination:

Mild side effects following vaccination are common and tend to occur 1-2 days after vaccination. If you experience fever, fatigue or headache within 48 hours of a COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 testing may not be required.

Beyond 48 hours after vaccination:

If you experience fever, fatigue or headache beyond 48 hours following vaccination or you experience any respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat or cough, a COVID-19 test is recommended.

COVID-19 vaccination is effective in preventing severe disease but less is known about effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing mild symptoms or transmission.

Australians can access their immunisation history statement through Medicare for proof of vaccination, both digitally and in hard copy, if required.

You can access a record of your vaccination online via MyGov through your Medicare or My Health Record account.

For more information about accessing your immunisation history through myGov, visit Services Australia.

General

The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary, available to everyone and free.

Tasmanians have a great record in supporting immunisation programs. The aim is to make COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all eligible Tasmanians. It is possible that in the 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.

The Australian Government has advised that all adults living in Australia will be able to receive the vaccine for free. This includes people on temporary visas, refugees, asylum seekers, those in detention centres and those with cancelled visas.

For more information about Australia’s vaccine rollout program, visit the Australian Government Department of Health.

For more information about the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s vaccine approval process, visit TGA COVID vaccines

You can find information on COVID-19 vaccines in languages other than English on the Australian Government Department of Health’s website.

Other reputable information about vaccines is available from:

The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has a comprehensive frequently asked questions list, that you can check out if you have other questions not answered here.