FAQs

Recently updated
Last Updated: 01 Mar 2021 11:02am

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

This page will be updated on a regular basis as more information becomes available about COVID-19 vaccines and Tasmania’s rollout program.



Getting vaccinated

All Tasmanians aged 18 and over will be able to get a vaccine in 2021.

The vaccine will be prioritised for those at higher-risk of being exposed to, or becoming sick from, COVID-19.

The first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will include:

  • staff working in designated quarantine and border facilities;
  • frontline healthcare staff working in higher risk settings; and
  • residential aged care and disability care facility staff and residents.

For more information, visit vaccine rollout.

Why have some groups been prioritised?

There is significant demand for safe and effective vaccines to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. As vaccines become available, they will go to people in higher risk groups.

Priority groups are identified by considering current public health, medical and epidemiological evidence on who is most likely to contract or who would be most affected if they contracted COVID-19.

For example, health and aged care workers are a priority group because they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their frequent contact with people.

They are also more likely to transmit the virus to vulnerable people through their work in hospitals and aged care facilities. It is for everyone’s benefit that this group is prioritised for vaccination so they can continue providing essential care.

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 who will get 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.

See how the stages will work at vaccine rollout.

The first vaccine doses will be given at three of Tasmania’s major hospitals:

  • Royal Hobart Hospital
  • Launceston General Hospital
  • North West Regional Hospital

Vaccination teams managed by the Australian Government will go to residential aged care and disability care facilities to deliver the vaccines to residents and staff.

As the rollout continues, Tasmanians will be able to get vaccinated at other locations across the State. This will include GP respiratory clinics, some General Practices, the Mersey Community Hospital, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and vaccination clinics.

You can read the Australian Government’s Vaccine Distribution Plan here.

Why are the first vaccines being rolled out at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH)?

The RHH has been selected as the first site  because Hobart is the location of our international arrival quarantine hotels and where the majority of our quarantine staff work. Currently in Tasmania, the quarantine system is where the greatest risk of exposure to the virus exists.

The rollout will continue to the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in March.

It is recommended that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered 21 days apart is the best way to maximise protection from the COVID-19 virus.

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

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

Tasmania’s general practices and community pharmacies will be essential partners in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The Australian Government has sought expressions of interest from all accredited general practices to take part in phase 1b of the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. Phase 1b will commence from March 2021.

General practices who do not participate in this phase 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.

The Australian Government is also inviting community pharmacies around Australia to join the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccines over the coming months. An expression of interest (EOI) opened on 1 February 2021 for the Community Pharmacy Vaccination Program. This program will provide assistance to vaccinate priority populations from phase 2a onwards.

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

Who is managing the roll-out of vaccines to residential aged care facilities?

In Tasmania, the Australian Government is responsible for leading the implementation of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program for Residential Aged Care Facilities.

This is being done in consultation with key stakeholders such as GPs, Primary Health Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government. Administration of the vaccine to residential aged care residents and workers will be done through an in-reach vaccination workforce contracted by the Commonwealth. This means an additional skilled vaccine workforce, separate to the residential aged care facility workers, has been recruited and trained to work in partnership with, and visit, residential aged care facilities to administer the vaccine to facility workers and residents.

What does the vaccination training involve?

All those health professionals involved in the COVID-19 vaccination program will need to have completed routine immunisation training specific to their profession, as well as additional COVID-19 vaccination training provided by the Australian Government Department of Health that covers multi-dose vial training and training specific to the respective vaccines. All those who have completed the training will be provided with evidence of this. In addition, to be able to administer vaccine independent of a medical practitioner, Nurse Immunisers and Pharmacist Immuniser need to be authorised to do so, under relevant Tasmanian legislation.

The training modules also cover handling and storage of vaccines, safety and surveillance monitoring, and reporting of adverse events following immunisation.

People should not have the vaccine if they have a history of anaphylaxis to COVID-19 vaccine or components of the vaccine (PEG for Pfizer or Polysorbate 80 for Oxford/AstraZeneca).

People who are sick on the day of their vaccination should reschedule their vaccination.

People with auto-immune conditions or immunodeficiencies can receive the COVID-19 vaccines, but consideration about timing of vaccination in relation to specific immunotherapy will be needed.

Reasons for additional medical supervision during vaccination include a history of generalised allergy (without anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine or the components.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that COVID-19 vaccine is not routinely recommended for pregnant women. Some pregnant women may choose to be vaccinated after considering their individual benefits and risks of vaccination. In particular, COVID-19 vaccination may be considered in pregnant women who are in a high-risk priority group for vaccination, where the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV2 infection is high, or where the woman has underlying medical conditions that put her at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Pregnant women were excluded from the earlier vaccine clinical trials as a safety precaution. However, based on our understanding of the vaccine, data on a small number of women in clinical trials who became pregnant shortly after vaccination, and from monitoring vaccine programs, there are currently no theoretical or known safety concerns (for the mother or the baby) in using COVID-19 vaccines if a woman is pregnant.

Women who are breastfeeding or who are planning pregnancy can receive COVID-19 vaccine. There are no theoretical concerns regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccine in these groups.

Vaccine information

The Australian Government has agreements for the supply of three COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was provisionally approved on 24 January 2021 for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for individuals 16 years and older. The Australian Government has an agreement for the supply of an initial 10 million doses plus another 10 million doses later in the year.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was provisionally approved on 16 February 2021 for use in Australia for people 18 years and older. This makes it the second COVID-19 vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia. Australia has an agreement for the supply of 53.8 million doses of this vaccine.

The other is Novavax vaccine with 51 million doses on order for later in the year if it is approved for use by the TGA.

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. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides a code to the cells to make the spike proteins, enabling the immune system to practice mounting an immune response to the spike protein of the virus.

This means that when the immune system encounters the virus during real infection, it is already primed to recognise the spike protein and mount a swift immune response to combat the illness.

How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?

Protection in the Pfizer/BioNTech trial was reported to be approximately 95 per cent and was consistent across age groups.

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 must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) rigorous approval processes.

For more information, visit the TGA’s website.

Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Are there any side effects?

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. These symptoms may be more common following the second dose and among younger people compared to older people.

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.

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

How can I trust the vaccines are safe if they are being developed so quickly?

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)

Are shortcuts being taken in vaccine safety assessment?

No. Although COVID-19 vaccine trials have been set up much more quickly than would have previously been possible, this does not mean that safety assessment has been compromised.

In fact most of the vaccines being developed have now included tens of thousands of people in their trials, totalling nearly one quarter of a million people being involved in trials altogether. This is actually providing a larger amount of data than for many other vaccines routinely used.

In addition to this, mass vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines has commenced on a large scale in many countries, including Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. The TGA have been monitoring the safety profile of the vaccines in these large-scale global rollouts closely for safety.

Each country has its own processes for assessing and monitoring the safety of vaccines. In Australia, any COVID-19 vaccine must meet the same high standards of the TGA as any other vaccine. Vaccine safety remains the TGA’s top priority. COVID-19 vaccines will be prioritised, and more resources will be allocated to their assessment.

Is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine safe for elderly patients?

There were reports in mid-January of deaths among frail elderly patients in Norway who had received the vaccine. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia was advised of the deaths - about 30 deaths in over 40,000 elderly people. The deaths occurred in very frail patients, some who were anticipated to only have weeks or months to live. The TGA worked closely with European authorities and Pfizer on further investigations. These concluded there was no specific safety concern and no causal link between vaccination and the deaths could be established, a position confirmed in subsequent discussions with other regulators in the UK and North America.

The TGA concluded there was no specific risk in elderly patients but has advised health care professionals in Australia to consider the potential benefits of vaccination against the potential impact of  even relatively mild systemic adverse events in the frail elderly which need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

How will Tasmanians know if there are any adverse events as a result of people taking the Pfizer vaccine?

Adverse events are reported and monitored at the state level and at the national level. At the state level, adverse events can be reported to Public Health Services, or directly to the TGA. The Therapeutic Goods Administration is Australia’s health regulatory agency. It is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including prescription medicines, vaccines, sunscreens, vitamins and minerals, medical devices, blood and blood products.  The TGA compiles all adverse event data across the country to quickly detect and respond to any concerning safety signals. The TGA utilises expert panels to monitor and respond to safety signals in real time, as they occur. The TGA is committed to issuing weekly reports of adverse events involving the vaccine, both in Australia and overseas.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved in people over 16 years of age because this is the age group that was enrolled and assessed­­ in the completed clinical trials. Currently, there are trials underway involving younger cohorts, including adolescents, so more will be known about effectiveness and safety in these age groups in time.

Some people may still get sick from COVID-19 even if they’ve been vaccinated.

For example, trials showed that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective in protecting against severe COVID-19.

Learn more about how the vaccine works by visiting the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

No. The preferred minimum interval between administration of COVID-19 vaccines and any influenza vaccine is 14 days. This precautionary safety advice is provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

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.

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.

A COVID-19 vaccine is an important way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, but not the only way.

We must continue to keep up our COVID-safe behaviours even after we’ve been vaccinated:

  • Stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser when out and about.
  • Stay at home if you are unwell and always cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Be aware of, and follow, current gathering, business and travel restrictions.

The Tasmanian Government has been preparing for the vaccine rollout for months.

The Tasmanian Vaccination Emergency Operations Centre (TVEOC) will manage the rollout.

They have been preparing by:

  • working closely with the Australian Government and key stakeholder groups to plan the rollout.
  • planning and managing vaccine distribution.
  • recruiting and training a workforce of health professionals to give the vaccines, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
  • ordering and setting up equipment so we can safely and effectively store, transport and give vaccines.
  • making sure that booking and accessing the vaccine will be as easy for all Tasmanians.

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: