COVID-19 Vaccines

Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

As of 9 April 2021, there have been over 133 million reported cases of COVID-19 globally and over 2.9 million people have died from the disease. When people are sick with COVID-19 they are very infectious and can easily pass COVID-19 onto others.

Australia has been quite successful in controlling COVID-19 outbreaks, but nationally over 29,000 people have been affected and 909 people have died. Many who have died from the disease have not been able to have their families or loved ones with them at the time. We do not want anyone to suffer this in the Kimberley.

Many who have died from the disease have not been able to have their families or loved ones with them at the time.

We do not want anyone to suffer this in the Kimberley. COVID-19 vaccination can help prevent this.

Why do we need the COVID-19 vaccine when there is no COVID-19 in our community?

During March and April 2020, a few small outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Kimberley were brought under control with border closures, public health actions (such as contact tracing and quarantine), and by the community staying at home with lockdown. Thankfully, no one became severely unwell or died.

Although the Kimberley is currently COVID-19 free, the risk of COVID-19 entering the region is ongoing. If even one case enters the region, it could result in an outbreak that affects many Kimberley people.

Getting a vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting yourself from getting really sick from COVID-19.

What is in the vaccine?

Most vaccines contain similar ingredients.

The most important part is the antigen that helps your body to start making antibodies for COVID-19 that can fight off the infection if you are exposed in the future. Antigens used in different COVID-19 vaccines all work by telling your body to make a little part of a COVID-19 virus particle called the “spike protein”. When your body sees the spike protein, it makes antibodies that are ready to fight off COVID-19 if you are exposed in the future.

There is no live COVID-19 in the vaccine – because of this, you cannot get COVID-19 from having a COVID-19 vaccine. The other ingredients in the vaccine are:
Stabilisers so that the vaccine keeps its effectiveness during storage and doesn’t stick to the side of the vial it comes in
Tiny amounts of residues from the process of making the vaccine And sterile water to dilute the vaccine
All of these ingredients are tested to make sure they are safe. The specific ingredients for the vaccine are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

No ingredients are from humans or animals, and there is no food, latex or gelatin in the vaccine.

Will the vaccine stop me from getting COVID-19?

COVID-19 vaccines do not always stop a person from getting the virus, however they are very good at protecting people from getting very sick, going to hospital or dying from COVID-19. This is why even after you have your vaccine, it will still be important to wash your hands regularly and cover your coughs and sneezes.

Will I need a second dose of the vaccine?

Yes.

The first dose of a vaccine teaches your immune system to make antibodies against a disease. The second dose triggers your immune system to make more antibodies so that you have enough to fight off an infection.

The research showed that the vaccine was more effective at protecting people from COVID-19 after the second dose.

Concerns

I’m worried about the new vaccination.

Everyone wants to know that they themselves, their family and friends are safe, especially in an uncertain time like during a pandemic. Vaccines can have side effects, and rare reactions sometimes occur with vaccination. The answers below will try to answer some of the questions you might have about the COVID-19 vaccination.

What does the research show about the vaccine?

All vaccines go through extensive testing before they are registered for use. First in the laboratory, then in animals, and then in people. There are three phases of clinical trials where a potential vaccine is tested in human volunteers.

In each phase, a larger group of people are given the vaccine to see if it protects them from the disease or causes any side effects. The Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia (the TGA) look at all of this data to ensure that the benefits of any vaccine we use outweigh any potential risks.

What are the side effects?

All vaccines can cause side effects. Most often, these side effects are not serious, don’t last long and usually go away completely. The most common side effects are some pain and tenderness where the injection is given (usually in the arm), headache, body aches, tiredness and feeling feverish. They found that these side effects were usually mild and only lasted a few days. It was very rare to have a serious side effects and no one died from the vaccine during the trials.

How do we know it is safe and effective?

The full results of clinical trials for each potential vaccine are given to the TGA, who are responsible for approving the use of vaccines in Australia.
These experts carefully look at all of the research, and if it shows that a vaccine is safe for people and effective at protecting people from COVID-19, they will approve the vaccine to be used in Australia. Two vaccines have been provisionally approved by the TGA. They continue to monitor the worldwide situation for new data including any side effects or reactions to the vaccine.

What about serious reactions to the vaccine?

Very rarely, someone might have an allergic reaction to a vaccine. This is a rare side effect possible with any vaccination we might have. Clinic staff will do a full check for you before having the vaccine to make sure it is safe for you to have it. After the vaccine, they will watch you for 15 minutes or more to make sure you aren’t allergic. If any one does have an allergic reaction, clinic staff are fully trained to care for you and give you the right medicines to stop the reaction and make a quick and full recovery.

Does the AstraZeneca vaccine cause blood clots?

There have been some rare reports of a serious blood clotting condition (called “thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome”) happening after the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. Out of 1 million people who have the vaccination, between 4 and 6 people have been affected. Authorities are still trying to work out if it is caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine, but if it is, this would be considered quite a rare serious reaction.

The Australian vaccination experts (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation – “ATAGI”) have recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be used in adults 50 years and older. In those under 50 years old, they have recommended using a different vaccine (the other vaccine in Australia is called Pfizer). This is because this rare clotting condition was found more often in younger people, even though it was still rare, and people over 50 years are more likely to get seriously unwell if they catch COVID-19. The Commonwealth government have said that this new age- based recommendation has been made “out of an abundance of caution”, and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in most people.

What if I am under 50 years old and have had my first dose of AstraZeneca?

If you are under 50 years old and have already had your first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine it is important to know that the risk of developing a blood clot afterwards is extremely rare. If you have any concerns about a symptom or your vaccination, speak to your local clinic.

If you did not have any serious reactions to the AstraZeneca vaccine, then it is strongly encouraged that you receive your second dose when it is due. It is important to know that the few people who have had a blood clot, experience this after the first dose rather than the second dose.

Why aren’t kids getting the vaccine at the same time as adults?

One good thing with COVID-19 is that kids mostly don’t get too sick with it, and they don’t spread it around as much as adults do. Because of this, the vaccine developers focused on making safe and effective vaccines for adults, who are suffering most with COVID-19 around the world.

Most COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been tested in kids yet, so we don’t know if they work in kids the same way that they work in adults. We also don’t know what the right dose for kids is yet, and whether they will be safe for them.

At the moment, there is a lot of work going on around the world to find the best COVID-19 vaccine for kids. When this vaccine becomes available, and we know it is safe and effective, kids will likely be offered vaccination.

Can pregnant women and those breastfeeding be vaccinated as well?

Yes, both pregnant and breastfeeding women can be vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. By getting vaccinated, mothers may be protecting their babies against COVID-19 as well by transferring antibodies to them which is great news!

Pregnant women and their unborn babies can get very sick if they catch COVID-19, so that’s why all pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer vaccine. If you have any questions about this, please ask your clinic staff for more information.

But this vaccine was made so quickly – are you sure it is safe?

COVID-19 vaccines have been developed within 12 months and are now being given to people all over the world.
Vaccines often take many years to be developed and pass clinical trials before they are widely distributed to people. It’s important to know that the vaccine developers haven’t skipped any steps in making the vaccine. All the usual tests of vaccine safety have been done for COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccine development process has been achieved within 12 months through;

  • Vaccine developers and governments working together to quickly raise enough money to develop COVID-19 Because of the problems COVID-19 is causing, many people are prepared to spend lots of money to get a good vaccine.
  • Starting several steps of the vaccine development process at the same time. For example: companies started making vaccine doses while the clinical trials were still being Usually the vaccine would be made in bulk after the clinical trials were finished, but for COVID-19, companies were willing to take more financial risks (not safety risks) to get a good vaccine.
  • Using newer technologies which are quicker than older For example: using genetic technologies which meant developers could start work as soon as the virus genome was released in January 2020.
  • Being able to test the safety and effectiveness of potential vaccines more quickly in clinical trials. This was able to happen because of how widespread COVID-19 is in parts of the world. As there is so much disease in so many countries, researchers were able to see the difference between those who got a vaccine and those who didn’t during trials. With less common diseases this can take longer because people aren’t exposed to the disease as much.

Availability

When can we get the vaccine?

The Australian government released its plan for how to make COVID-19 vaccination available for all Australians on January 7th 2021. You can read it here. The first doses were given in February to those most at risk of COVID-19 including front-line hospital workers and people living and working in residential care facilities for the elderly and disabled. Since March, COVID-19 vaccines have been available to other priority groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 16.

Where can we get the vaccine?

You can get the vaccine at your local clinic, hospital and some general practices.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents and most visa-holders.

Do I have to have the vaccine?

It is up to each person to make a decision on whether they should have the vaccine. The Australian government will not make anyone have it. However, you may need to have had the vaccine to do certain things in the future like travel to other states or countries.

More Information

Where can I get more information?

You can speak to a health worker, nurse or doctor at your local clinic if you have any more questions. You can also ask a question on the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services – Covid 19 Response Facebook Page 

SMS through the KAMS COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline on 0499 461 430

© 2021 Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services