COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

AstraZeneca Frequently Asked Questions

Vaccine Safety & Efficacy

How does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine prevent illness from COVID-19?

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can prevent people from becoming ill from COVID-19. AstraZeneca COVID-19 does not contain any live SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19), 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 that is carried into your cells by a harmless common cold ‘carrier’ virus (an adenovirus). Your body then makes the spike protein and uses it to learn to recognise and fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The adenovirus has been modified so that it cannot replicate once it is inside cells. This means it cannot spread to other cells and cause infection.

Is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe?

All COVID-19 vaccinations, including the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, approved for use in Australia are safe and effective. Before a COVID-19 vaccine can be approved for use in Australia, it must undergo the rigorous assessment and approval processes of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This includes assessment of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness. As of April, 2021, the current recommendation is that the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults under 60 years of age who have not already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

How effective is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

Based on clinical trials and information from regulators, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is about 62 – 74% effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19. Clinical trial data also suggests very good protection (possibly close to 100%) against severe COVID-19.

Does the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine contain a live virus?

No. The COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca contains a harmless ‘common cold’ virus (an adenovirus) that carries the piece of genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into your cells. This adenovirus has been modified so that it can only enter your cells once, and it cannot replicate and spread to other cells. It therefore cannot cause infection, and does not behave like a ‘live vaccine’. It is considered safe for people who cannot have live vaccines, such as people with immunocompromise (weakened immune systems).

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be effective on any new strains of the virus?

Clinical trials, so far, are showing that the COVID-19 vaccines induce antibodies that are likely to be able to respond to most minor changes in the virus’ gene sequence. Australia will continue to closely monitor international developments regarding the COVID-19 variants of concern and will continue to perform careful genetic examination of the virus found in local cases.

What is herd immunity, and will the COVID-19 vaccine achieve this?

Herd immunity occurs when enough people are vaccinated to prevent the disease from easily moving from person to person. As such, it requires a large proportion of the population to be vaccinated. The exact proportion that will need to be vaccinated to affect the spread of COVID-19 depends on characteristics of the disease; for example, how easily it is transmitted; and characteristics of the vaccine; for example, its ability to stop transmission, and the duration of the vaccine's protection. It is easier to generate herd immunity with a vaccine that provides long-term protection and that prevents the transmission of the infection between people. Vaccines that provide short-term protection require booster doses, making herd immunity harder to achieve. As we learn more about the characteristics of COVID-19 vaccines and how well they protect against the disease and spread of the virus, more studies will be undertaken to monitor how much impact the vaccines will have, and whether herd immunity is being developed over time.

The vaccine was developed so quickly. How do I know it is safe?

COVID-19 vaccines have been through the same rigorous testing as any other clinical vaccine trial that may take years to develop. Typically vaccine trials and manufacturing take a long time because of the time it takes to get funding, ethics approval, preclinical studies, and recruiting of volunteers. The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available were produced at such great efficiency because of the access to unlimited funding and the collaboration between highly motivated and very skilled professionals from all across the globe who have worked together towards a common goal, as well as tens of thousands of altruistic volunteers who participated in the clinical trials.

Why are multi-dose vials being used to store COVID-19 vaccines?

Multi-dose vials contain more than one dose of a vaccine in a single glass vial. They usually include 5–20 doses per vial, and each dose is then carefully extracted and given via individual syringes for injection. Use of multi-dose vials is the most efficient way to distribute a new vaccine to the maximum number of people and is being used world-wide for all COVID-19 vaccines. Packaging vaccine doses multi-dose vials is safe and is supported by numerous quality controls and good handling practices. Multi-dose vials are routinely used in Australia for the tuberculosis (BCG) vaccine and were used for the 2009 pandemic influenza vaccine. Immunisation providers are trained in and follow guidelines specifically on the use of multi-dose vials.

Will we still need other COVID-19 preventative measures, like social distancing and lockdowns, if a COVID-19 vaccine is available?

Initially, Australia will still need to have the flexible strategies already in place to control COVID-19. If the vaccine program is effective and starting to reach a high proportion of people, it is hoped that we will be able to reduce some of these control measures. This is likely to be a slow process and will rely on many people being willing to have the vaccine.

Can I get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead?

Currently, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the only vaccine being supplied to General Practices as part of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out.

Information regarding who can access the Pfizer vaccine and where you can get it can be found here.

Who can get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for patients aged 60 years and over. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) have reviewed their advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine. They have recommended that Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for people aged under 60 years. This doesn't change who is currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but it means if you are under 60, it is preferred that you get the Pfizer vaccine. ATAGI have made this recommendation because of new evidence that shows the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (the rare blood clotting disorder) in the 50-59 age group is higher than initially thought.

I am 60 years or over. Is the AstraZeneca vaccine still safe for me?

Yes, the AstraZeneca vaccine is still safe for you. The risk of blood clotting disorders is much lower in people aged 60 years and over. Additionally, if you are aged 60 and over, you are much more likely to become seriously unwell if you catch COVID-19.

Eligibility, Cost & Access

Will the vaccine be free for everyone?

Yes. The vaccine will be free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents, and most visa-holders, regardless of whether you have Medicare or not.
There is no fee associated with having the COVID-19 vaccine at Bondi Doctors for patients with Medicare.

If I am not an Australian citizen, am I still eligible for the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines will be free for everyone in Australia, even if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This includes people without a Medicare card, overseas visitors, international students, migrant workers and asylum seekers. Non-medicare patients are unable to access the vaccine at Bondi Doctors, but the closest Government-run clinic offering it can be found here.

Will the vaccine be mandatory in Australia?

While the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation, it is not mandatory, and individuals may choose not to vaccinate. If people chose not to have the COVID-19 vaccine, it will not affect their family’s eligibility for the Family Tax Benefit Part A, or their childcare fee assistance. Currently, this only includes the National Immunisation Program vaccines for those aged under 20 years. 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 high-risk workplaces. If this becomes the case, there will be exemptions for people who are unable to be vaccinated.

Can I receive the AstraZeneca vaccine if I am on anticoagulation medications, am underdoing anticoagulation therapy, or have any coagulation disorder?

COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca should be given with caution to individuals with thrombocytopenia, any coagulation disorder or to persons on anticoagulation therapy, because bleeding or bruising may occur following an intramuscular administration in these individuals.

We recommend speaking to your GP about your eligibility prior to receiving your COVID-19 vaccine.

Side Effects

Common side effects after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

As with any vaccine, you may have some side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Common side effects after COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca include:

  • Pain, swelling, tenderness, redness or itching at the injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Feeling unwell
  • Joint pain

These side effects are usually mild and usually go away within one or two days. If you experience pain at the injection site or fever, headaches or body aches after vaccination, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen. These help to reduce some of the above symptoms. You do not need to take paracetamol or ibuprofen before vaccination. If there is swelling at the injection site, you can use a cold compress.

Less common side effects after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

Less common side effects after AstraZenecaCOVID-19 Vaccine include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Pain in limb
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach pain

These side effects are usually mild and usually go away within one or two days. If you experience pain at the injection site or fever, headaches or body aches after vaccination, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen. These help to reduce some of the above symptoms. You do not need to take paracetamol or ibuprofen before vaccination. If there is swelling at the injection site, you can use a cold compress.

When should I seek medical attention after the vaccine?

You should seek medical attention after vaccination if:

  • You think you are having an allergic reaction. Call 000 if you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, a fast heartbeat or collapsing
  • You have an expected side effect of the vaccine which has not gone away after a few days
  • You have:
    • Severe, persistent headaches that are different to your "usual" headaches and do not settle with paracetamol or other pain killers
    • Blurred vision
    • Weakness of face or limbs
    • Confusion or seizure
  • You are worried about a potential side effect or have new or unexpected symptoms, particularly in the 4-20 days after vaccination, such as
    • Shortness of breat
    • Chest pain
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Leg swelling
    • Pin-prick rash or bruising not at the injection site that cannot be explain.

How can I report side effects after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

Patients are encouraged to report any side effects after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. You can report symptoms and access advice from a pharmacist by calling the NPS MedicineWise Adverse Medicine Events line on 1300 134 237 (8am-8pm seven days a week), alternatively they can be advised to email us on to report side effects to their doctor. Other ways to report side effects can be found here.

Rare side effects that have been reported after an AstraZeneca Vaccine

  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) - occurs in approximately 1 in a million people
  • A very rare and unusual clotting condition:
    • A very rare side effect of an unusual condition involving blood clotting and low blood platelet count may occur after the AstraZeneca vaccine. This affects approximately 4 to 6 out of a million people after receiving a first dose, but has not been seen after the second dose of this vaccine.
    • The blood clots can occur at different parts of the body, including the brain and the abdomen. The low level of blood platelets can cause bleeding.
    • The symptoms of this condition mostly start between 4 and 20 days after vacciantion.
    • People with this condition get very unwell and need to go to hospital. This condition can lead to long term disability and even death.

I've had my first dose of AstraZeneca, and have side effects that I am worried about. What should I do?

If you have recently had your first vaccine dose and are experiencing any side effects that you are worried about, please book an appointment to see your doctor.

After Vaccination

What proof will I receive that I have been immunised against COVID-19?

You will be able to access your proof of immunisation in a few ways:

  1. You can access it via the 'Express Plus' Medicare app. Follow the prompts to retrieve your immunisation history.
  2. Alternatively you can visit and access your immunisation history contained in your 'My Health' record.

If I am unwell after my COVID-19 vaccine, do I need to get a COVID-19 test?

Some side effects from COVID-19 vaccinations might be similar to COVID-19. However, COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain any live SARS-CoV-2 virus and cannot cause COVID-19. You do not need to get a COVID-19 test or isolate:

  • If you develop general symptoms like fever, headache or tiredness in the first two days after vaccination, and
  • If you are sure that you don't have any respiratory symptoms (e.g. runny nose, cough, sore throat, loss of smell or loss of taste)
If you experience any sort of fever after the first 2-3 days following vaccination, or respiratory symptoms including a mild runny nose, you are required to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering the practice for an appointement. A detailed list of testing facilities can be found here.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Should I get the vaccine if I am trying to get pregnant? Or should I wait?

Both the RACGP and the ATAGI have stated that women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.

Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?

RANZCOG and ATAGI recommend that pregnant women are routinely offered Pfizer mRNA vaccine (Cominarty) at any stage of pregnancy. This is because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn baby. Global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant women have not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. Furthermore, there is also evidence of antibody in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity. Pregnant women are encouraged to discuss the decision in relation to timing of vaccination with their health professional.

Can I get the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

 Unfortunately, breastfeeding women were excluded from COVID-19 vaccine studies. However, based on what is known about similar vaccines, it is believed that the risks will be low. Australia's Department of Health has indicated that breastfeeding women can get an approved COVID-19 vaccine and don't need to stop breastfeeding before or after. Each individual breastfeeding woman should consult with their doctor about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that breastfeeding women be vaccinated against COVID-19 whenever they are part of a group of people for whom vaccination is recommended.

Will the vaccine affect my fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, have any effect on male or female fertility.


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

No, the vaccine will not protect you against influenza (the flu). The Australian Government recommends that you get the flu vaccine. This is to reduce your risk of contracting influenza, as it also reduces your risk of having influenza at the same time as COVID-19. Being vaccinated against the flu also helps to protect others, particularly people who are more vulnerable to infections (e.g. elderly people). You can now waitlist to receive your 2021 flu vaccine. Please note that you cannot have any type of vaccine within 2 weeks of receiving your COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine?

Co-administration of COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines is not routinely recommended. A minimum 7-day interval is advised between administration of a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine, including influenza vaccine. This interval can be shortened (including same day administration) in special circumstances.

Am I able to get the Pfizer vaccine at Bondi Doctors?

Bondi Doctors does not have access to the Pfizer vaccine at this stage, but you can find further information about it here. If an appointment is not available right away, new clinics and appointments are being added regularly, so you can wait a few days and check again.

I am under 60, and I am fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca. Do I have to get Pfizer now?

If you have received both doses of the vaccine, you do not need to get vaccinated with any other COVID-19 vaccine.

Dose 2

What happens if I miss the second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

If the second dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is overdue (i.e. past the preferred interval between the two doses of the vaccine), the second dose should be given as soon as possible. A single dose is likely to only provide short-term protection. The second dose will be effective regardless of how late it is given. Even if the second dose is late, no vaccine doses need to be repeated. Additional or booster doses beyond the two-dose course are not currently recommended. The need for any additional doses will be reviewed over time.

How many times will I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

To achieve protection against COVID-19, you will need to have two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, spaced 12 weeks apart.

Am I able to have my second dose of AstraZeneca in less than 12 weeks?

The Australian government has stipulated that the AstraZeneca vaccine is most effective when the second dose is administered 12 weeks after the first dose. If you are required to have the second dose of the vaccine sooner (e.g. for travel arrangements), it is OK to have the second dose anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks after the first dose.

If I am under 50 and received my first dose of AstraZeneca, is it safe to receive the second dose?

Yes, people who have had the first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 50 years.

When can I book my second dose?

When you received your first dose, you were automatically added to the list for a vaccine in 12 weeks’ time. This ensures a dose is reserved for you. You will receive a text message to make an appointment 1-2 weeks before the 12-week mark, just as you did for your first appointment.

I'm booked in for my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and I am under 60, what do I do?

If you are aged under 60 years and you have an appointment to receive your first dose of AstraZeneca, it is recommended that you cancel this booking. You can schedule an appointment at a Pfizer vaccination site. If you need to find the site closest to you, you can use the vaccine eligiblity checker.

If I've had my first dose of AstraZeneca, should I get Pfizer for my second dose?

No, this isn't necessary. If you have had your first AstraZeneca dose without any serious side effects, you can receive your second dose as planned. To ensure maximum long term immunity, it is important that you receive two doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine.


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