About the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine

Monash Health is a vaccine hub for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It will be the first vaccine to be used across our sites for healthcare workers and aged care residents.
Information about vaccination will be sent to your Monash Health email address. Please ensure you check it regularly.

About the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Comirnaty (Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd) is a vaccine that can prevent people from becoming ill from COVID-19.

Comirnaty does not contain any live virus, and it cannot give you COVID-19. It contains the genetic code for an important part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus called the spike protein. After getting the vaccine, your body makes copies of the spike protein, and your immune system will learn to recognise and fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

To prevent COVID-19, everyone aged 16 years and older should get vaccinated, with a few exceptions specified in this information sheet. Vaccination is voluntary.

Benefits of the vaccine

A very large clinical trial showed that Comirnaty is effective in preventing COVID-19 in people aged 16 years and older. People who had two doses of Comirnaty were about 95 per cent less likely to get COVID-19 than people who did not get the vaccine.

It was equally effective in people over the age of 65 years, and as people with some stable pre-existing medical conditions. Protection against COVID-19 starts from about 2–3 weeks after the first dose.

While one dose may give some protection, it may only last for the short-term. Two doses will give optimal protection. No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so it is possible that you can still get sick from COVID-19 after vaccination.

We do not know how long the protection from Comirnaty will last. We will learn more about this over time.

We currently do not know how effective COVID-19 vaccines are at preventing the spread of the virus. This means that SARS-CoV-2 could potentially still infect a vaccinated person. Even if they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms they could still pass it on to others.

Is the Pfizer vaccine right for me?

Discuss vaccination with your primary care provider before making an appointment if you:

  • Have had anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to any substance, or if you have an adrenaline autoinjector (e.g. EpiPen).
  • Have had a reaction to any vaccine in the past.
  • Have a bleeding disorder or are receiving anticoagulant therapy (a blood thinner).
  • Are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy.
  • Are immunocompromised (i.e. have a weakened immune system or take immune-suppressing medication).
  • Have received another COVID-19 vaccine (and which brand).
  • Have received any vaccine in the last 14 days.

COVID-19 Vaccine – Frequently asked questions

The vaccines

Which COVID-19 vaccines will be used in Australia?

Two vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine, have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia.

From Monday 22 February 2021, the Pfizer vaccine will be used for priority groups who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19. Vaccinations using AstraZeneca are expected to begin in March 2021.

Both vaccines need to be taken in two doses. The doses need to be spaced out – for Pfizer by at least 21 days, and for AstraZeneca by at least 28 days or more.

Vaccination is free and available to everyone who can be vaccinated in Australia.

So far, the TGA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 16 years and older, and the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 years and over. Until further information on the safety and efficacy of these vaccines in younger people is available, they will not be given to people aged younger than 18 years (AstraZeneca) or 16 years (Pfizer).

More information about Australia’s rollout is available on the Australian Government’s COVID website at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Does the vaccine protect us from the recent strain of the coronavirus?

People who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been found to have strong T-cell responses against the UK and South African variants of COVID-19, suggesting that the vaccine will continue to protect against serious disease in the coming months.

However, new information about COVID-19 vaccines is becoming available all the time. For the most up to date information visit the Australian Government’s Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine website.

Will I have to pay for the vaccination?

No, the COVID-19 vaccination is free.

Can I get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the COVID-19 virus. It is impossible to get COVID-19 from these vaccines.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine also protect me against the flu?​

No, different vaccinations are required for COVID-19 and influenza (the flu).

The virus that causes coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is different to the virus that causes the flu and causes a more severe illness. An annual winter flu vaccination through your doctor or immunisation provider can help to protect you from the flu and is still strongly recommended for all those eligible.

Can I receive the flu vaccination at the same time as my COVID-19 vaccination?

No, at this time the advice is that COVID-19 vaccines, and all other vaccines – including influenza – need to be given at least 14 days apart.

I have already had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. You still need the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve had COVID-19.

In the clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine, no specific safety issues were reported among people who had previously been infected with COVID-19.

Safety

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Vaccines are tested to ensure they are safe before they are approved for use.

Before vaccines are made available in Australia, they must pass strict Australian safety standards set by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

All vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety before they are approved for use in Australia. This includes careful analysis of clinical research, ingredients, chemistry, manufacturing and other factors.

How vaccines are approved (video)

Find out more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/learn-about-covid-19-vaccines/are-covid-19-vaccines-safe

What are the vaccine side effects? How are the side effects different from COVID-19?

Like many other vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccines can have side effects. These include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills or fever. These symptoms are generally mild and on average resolve within a day or two.

Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the side effects of vaccination (for example, fever and chills), but others are quite different.

Symptoms of COVID-19 infection can include coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss of or change in sense of smell or taste. These are not normal vaccine reactions. If you have these symptoms, before or after receiving the vaccine, get tested and isolate until you get your result.

More information about side effects of the vaccine can be at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Can I receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant?

The Australian Government has recently released guidance on the use of the Pfizer vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and women who are planning to become pregnant.

This advice is:

  • The Pfizer vaccine is safe for breastfeeding women. They can receive the vaccine at any time and do not have to stop breastfeeding
  • For women planning pregnancy, they can receive the Pfizer vaccine at any time. They do not have to avoid becoming pregnant before or after vaccination.
  • It is not currently recommended that pregnant women receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as we don’t yet have enough information to know for certain whether the Pfizer vaccine is safe in pregnancy.
  • Women who are at particular risk of COVID-19 infection, or with risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness, can consider having COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.

Further information will become available in coming months. However, as with any health concern during pregnancy, women with queries about vaccination while pregnant should talk to their doctor or midwife.

It is expected that further guidance on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in pregnancy and breastfeeding will soon be available from the Australian Government.

More information about pregnancy and the vaccine can be found at https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/02/covid-19-vaccination-covid-19-vaccination-decision-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregnancy.pdf

What if I have a history of anaphylaxis?

If you have a history of anaphylaxis or allergic reactions to vaccines you should discuss this with your doctor and also with your immunisation provider, before receiving your first dose.

After receiving a vaccination, everyone should wait for 15 minutes before leaving the premises so they can be monitored for any reaction. People with a history of allergic reactions to vaccination, or of anaphylaxis to any exposure, should wait 30 minutes after vaccination to be observed for a reaction.

Anyone who is suspected to have had an allergic reaction to the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine should see their doctor and discuss with the specialist vaccination centre or an allergy specialist.

More information about the vaccine can be at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with allergies?

Yes. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are safe for people with allergies such as asthma, hayfever, and food allergies.

If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine before, you should discuss with your doctor or vaccine provider before having your first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

More information about the vaccine can be at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with immunodeficiencies?

Yes. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are safe for people with immunodeficiencies and autoimmune conditions.

However, the COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective for people with immune deficiencies, or people who are on medicines that affect the immune system.

If you have immunodeficiency or are on medicines that affect the immune system please talk to your medical specialist or GP.

More information about COVID-19 vaccines can be found at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

If I have a reaction to the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine can I still have the second dose?

If you have a non-allergic reaction, for example you faint, you can receive the second dose. Let your immunisation provider know if you are prone to fainting.

If you have a mild to moderate reaction you can still receive the second dose, but must remain on-site and under supervision at the vaccine site for 30 minutes after your second dose.

Special vaccination centres will be available for people with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines so they can be safely vaccinated against COVID-19. Anyone who is suspected to have had an allergic reaction to the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine should see their doctor and discuss with the specialist vaccination centre or an allergy specialist.

If you experience anaphylaxis, you should consult your doctor and consider referral to an allergy specialist before receiving the second dose. If in doubt, always speak with your doctor first.

More information about the vaccine can be found at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Other information

Will the COVID-19 vaccination appear on Medicare Immunisation Registers?

Yes. Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has said anyone who received a coronavirus vaccine would have it recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.

The record will then be made available on the MyGov website or the Express Plus Medicare app, where a person’s total immunisation history is listed, or a paper version can be printed out.

If I am not an Australian citizen will I be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Australian Government has made COVID-19 vaccines available free of charge for all Australian citizens, permanent residents and temporary visa holders.

Who do I contact if I have concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine?

The best person to talk to for advice about the COVID-19 vaccine is your doctor or healthcare provider.

I am afraid of needles, is there another way I can receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, the only way to administer the COVID-19 vaccine is through a needle. Please talk to your GP and let your immunisation provider know that you are afraid of needles when you attend your appointment.

Where can I find resources that provide COVID-19 vaccine information in other languages?

Information about COVID-19 vaccines is available from the Australian Government. Find information in your language at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

Where can I find resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Information about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is available from the Australian Government. Find information at: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-vaccination-common-questions-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples

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