FAQs - AstraZeneca vaccine

Last Updated: 25 Oct 2021 9:12am

The Australian Government has advised that the Pfizer vaccine is now preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults aged between 16 and 59 years old who have not yet received a first dose of AstraZeneca. Previously Pfizer was recommended for people aged 16-49 years old and AstraZeneca for people 50 years and above.

View the Australian Government’s updated COVID-19 vaccine rollout advice. It is also available in a range of languages.

The Australian Government has advised that the Pfizer vaccine is now preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults aged between 16 and 59 years old who have not yet received a first dose of AstraZeneca. Previously Pfizer was recommended for people aged 16-49 years old and AstraZeneca for people 50 years and above.

This decision is based on the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), in response to ongoing monitoring of rare but serious adverse reactions to the vaccine.

ATAGI has recommended that people who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca can safely receive their second dose. This includes adults under 60 years.

Based on the latest advice, people aged between 50-59 years old, who were scheduled for their first dose of AstraZeneca, will now be offered the Pfizer vaccination.

People with existing first dose appointments for AstraZeneca at community clinics who are aged 50-59 will be contacted by the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline to have their appointment rescheduled to a clinic delivering the Pfizer vaccine.  This will be undertaken over a number of days and people will be scheduled into available appointments in coming weeks.

People within this age group, who have not yet booked their first vaccination, should book into a Pfizer vaccination clinic when they make their first booking.

If you are 50-59 years of age and booked into a GP practice for a first dose of Astra-Zeneca and do not wish to proceed with the appointment, you should contact your GP to cancel your appointment – you can then make an appointment at a Pfizer clinic by calling the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

If you have an urgent query, please call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

The vaccination rollout will continue as planned, with vaccinations for those eligible people aged 16-59 using the Pfizer vaccine and using the AstraZeneca vaccine for Tasmanians 60 years and older.

Information for people aged 50 to 59 years old

People aged 50-59 booked for a first dose of AstraZeneca in a community clinic

In line with the updated advice for AstraZeneca by ATAGI, the Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred vaccine for this age group.

The Tasmanian Public Health Hotline will contact everyone in this age group who has a booking for an AstraZeneca vaccination and will reschedule appointments to a clinic that offers the Pfizer vaccine.

There are clinics offering this vaccine in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. Please be patient as we work through this.

People aged 50-59 years and had a first dose of AstraZeneca – should they have their second?

Yes, you need to have a second dose of AstraZeneca to ensure you have optimal protection against COVID-19.

If you have received your first dose of AstraZeneca you should still have your second dose when it is scheduled.

ATAGI reinforces that people of any age who have had their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can receive the second dose.

Both doses of the vaccine must be the same. It is not routinely recommended to mix vaccine brands.

People who are aged 50-59 years and have an appointment for an AstraZeneca vaccine with a GP practice

If you are aged 50-59 and booked into a GP clinic for a first dose of Astra-Zeneca and do not wish to proceed with the appointment you should contact your GP to cancel your appointment – the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline can then help you make an appointment at a Pfizer clinic.

The Tasmanian Public Health Hotline can be contacted on 1800 671 738.

AstraZeneca side effects

Adverse reactions have only occurred within a small time period of between 4-30 days and after the first dose.

Although the incidence of these reactions is very rare, it is important to be aware of them and seek medical advice (advising them you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine) if you experience any of the following after your vaccination:

  • neurological symptoms, such as severe and persistent headaches 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.

The most common reactions reported for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are headache, fever, muscle pain, fatigue and chills. These are expected side effects, mild and will usually resolve on their own within 1-2 days.

Based on the latest information available, the Australian Government has advised that the AstraZeneca vaccine remains a safe and effective vaccine for people aged 60 years and over.

People who are aged 50-59 years and have had both doses of AstraZeneca – should they be worried?

If you are in the 50-59 age group and have already received a dose or both doses of the AstraZeneca, you now have a high level of protection against the symptoms of COVID 19 and you should not be concerned.

I’m 60 or over, can I have Pfizer?

Current advice is the AstraZeneca vaccine remains safe for use in people above the 60 year age group.

This is because the risk of the rare but serious adverse event, thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia syndrome (TTS) is very rare, particularly for those over the age of 60. The benefits from vaccination are far greater than the risk; the risk of serious outcomes, including hospitalisation and death following COVID-19 infection increases with age.

If I am over 60 years old, can I get Pfizer if my GP recommends it?

There are some rare conditions where Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for those over 60:

Pfizer is preferred for people over the age of 60 with:

  • A past history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)
  • A past history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)
  • A past history of idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis
  • Anti-phospholipid syndrome with thrombosis
  • People with contraindications to COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, i.e.
    • Anaphylaxis to a previous dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, or to an ingredient of the vaccine
    • Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
    • Other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca

General



On 17 June, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) made the following recommendations:

  • ATAGI advises that Comirnaty (Pfizer) is preferred over COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca from the age of 16 to under 60 years. This is based on recent data regarding TTS cases in Australia and a reassessment of current age-specific risks and benefits of vaccination.
  • ATAGI considers the benefit of vaccination in preventing COVID-19 with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca outweighs the risk of TTS in people aged 60 and above. For this age group, the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are greater than in younger people. The risks of severe outcomes with COVID-19 increase with age and are particularly high in older unvaccinated individuals.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 60 years for whom Comirnaty is not available, 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 of any age without contraindications who have had their first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events should receive the second dose.
  • ATAGI reinforces the importance of providing clear communications to people who have received or are considering COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, and notes guidance documents for consumers, for primary care and for hospitals are being continually revised to accommodate this new recommendation.

What are the signs of a serious adverse reaction?

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.

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)

ATAGI supports completion of a two-dose schedule with AstraZeneca. The risk of TTS following a second dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is much lower than the risk following a first dose. The UK has reported 23 TTS cases in 15.7 million people after receiving a second dose, an estimated rate of 1.5 per million second doses (compared to a reported risk of 14.2 per million first doses in the UK).

If you have a medical emergency, call 000. If you have an urgent query about vaccinations, please call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738. GPs will likely receive a lot of calls from concerned patients, so please consider calling the hotline if your query can be answered by someone other than your GP.

Yes. Vaccinations using the Pfizer vaccine will continue as planned and there is no change to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on the safety of the Pfizer vaccine.

People under 60 years of age

Yes. If you have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and have not experienced a serious side effects  then the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice is that it remains safe to receive your second dose.

Yes, if you received your vaccination more than 30 days ago and did not experience any adverse reactions, a reaction now is unlikely. Based on this, the advice remains that it is safe to receive your second dose of the vaccine when it is scheduled.

No. Both doses must be the same vaccine. You can safely have the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine if you did not experience an adverse reaction to the first dose.

Serious side effects are extremely rare, but you should keep an eye out for side effects up to 20 days after receiving your vaccine. If you experience any of the following side effects you should seek hospital treatment immediately:

  • neurological symptoms, such as severe and persistent headaches 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.

People aged 60 years and over

Yes. Current advice is that the AstraZeneca vaccine remains safe for use in people above the 60 year age group.

The current advice is the AstraZeneca vaccine remains safe for use in people above the 60 year age group.  The exception is for people with a history of specific medical conditions.

Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine is recommended for the following people 16 years and older:

  • A past history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)
  • A past history of heparin-induced thrombocytopaenia (HIT)
  • A past history of idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis
  • People with contraindications to AstraZeneca vaccine, including
    • Anaphylaxis to a previous dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
    • Thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia occurring after the first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
    • Other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca remains safe and effective for Tasmanians who are 60 years and over, this is the strong advice of the expert advisory panel who have examined the adverse events.  You are encouraged to take your first available dose if you are 60 years and over.  The Pfizer Vaccine may be available to you at a later date, but there is no guarantee it will be available to you and you will be waiting some time as the Pfizer vaccine is not being manufactured in Australia. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered to you, is the best way to get protected against COVID-19 infection.

Thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia (TTS) is a rare condition with a different mechanism to other more common causes of blood clots and/or low platelets. There are no known markers to predict an increased risk of TTS. This means that the following people can receive the AstraZeneca vaccine:

  • People with a past history of venous thromboembolism in typical sites, such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • People with a predisposition to form blood clots, such as those with Factor V Leiden, or other non-immune thrombophilic disorders
  • People with a family history of clots or clotting conditions
  • People currently receiving anticoagulant medications
  • People with a history of ischaemic heart disease or cerebrovascular accident
  • People with a current or past history of thrombocytopenia.