It’s normal and ok to have questions – after all, this is a new vaccine program and although the world has seen an illness like COVID-19 before (Spanish flu in 1918), we are not used to living our life with restrictions, or the constant barrage of information and opinions filling the 24-hour news cycle on our social media feeds, radio and TV.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell misunderstandings or false information apart from facts.
The information can help you make informed decisions with some frequently asked questions and answers from the Department of Health website.
Were COVID-19 vaccines developed too quickly to be safe?
COVID-19 vaccines have been developed without compromising quality, safety and effectiveness.
It may appear they have been developed very quickly, but researchers around the world have been working hard to develop COVID-19 vaccines from the earliest stages of the pandemic.
They have been able to speed up development of vaccines thanks to the collaboration between them, scientists, manufacturers and distributors.
In addition, research into how to respond to a pandemic has been occurring long before COVID-19.
This research looks at data from previous coronaviruses such as SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, giving researchers a head start when it comes to building the COVID-19 vaccines.
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has been rigorously assessing the potential COVID-19 vaccines for safety, quality and effectiveness. They will continue to do this with all vaccines before they will be approved and made available to Australians.
Once approved, each batch must also be checked to make sure it meets the same quality standards.
Does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine cause blood clots?
Australia’s medical experts, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) have recently reviewed the data available on the incidence of rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination.
There has been a link established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a very rare but serious side effect called thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopenia.
The experts at ATAGI actively monitor cases of this syndrome. They have considered the risk of this rare side effect against the benefits of vaccination for different age groups.
They have noticed higher rates of this rare condition in people aged 50-59 years and recommend the Pfizer vaccine as the preferred vaccine for people under the age of 60. For people aged 60 years or above, the benefits of vaccination, with any vaccine including AstraZeneca, clearly outweigh the risks of Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS).
Can COVID-19 vaccines connect me to the internet?
COVID-19 vaccines do not – and cannot – connect you to the internet.
Some of the mRNA vaccines being developed include the use of a material called a hydrogel, which might help disperse the vaccine slowly into our cells.
Bioengineers have used similar hydrogels for many years in different ways. For instance, they’ve used them to help stem cells survive after being put inside our bodies. Because of this, some people believe that hydrogels are needed for electronic implants, which can connect to the internet.
The Pfizer mRNA vaccine does not use hydrogels as a component. It contains a piece of mRNA which is coated in a lipid (fatty) droplet. The lipid helps the vaccine enter our cells, as the membrane holding our cells together is also made mostly of lipid. The vaccine and the membrane can fuse easily, depositing the mRNA inside the cell.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine work if coronavirus mutates?
All viruses mutate. COVID-19 is no different and there have been reports in media recently about new strains of the virus, including the Delta variant.
This does not mean the vaccines will not be effective on new variants. Evidence tells us that the COVID-19 vaccines will still be effective against these new variants.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will also closely look at this as part of their approval and monitoring processes.
It may mean people need booster shots like tetanus and whooping cough or it may mean we need to be vaccinated again – like we are for the flu vaccine each year.
If the vaccine is safe, why can’t kids have it?
At this stage, neither the Pfizer nor AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have approval for use in children from the TGA, Australia’s medical regulator.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is provisionally approved by the TGA for patients 16 years and older.
This is because there are limited clinical trial results showing that the vaccines are effective and safe in these age groups. There are plans for clinical trials with children underway. To date there is no evidence to indicate that in the future children should not be able to receive both of these vaccines.
The TGA will monitor the vaccines and when more evidence becomes available, they will review this and make recommendations then.
How long does it take to have immunity after vaccination?
Both the Pfizer and AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccines require the full 2 dose course for the best immune response. The second dose encourages the body to create stronger protection and immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Individuals may not be fully protected until 7-14 days after their second dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine.
Do I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone in Australia. Vaccination providers cannot charge you for the COVID-19 vaccine or for your appointments to receive the vaccine.
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