Millions of people around the world have now been safely vaccinated against COVID-19, bringing us all one step closer to ending the pandemic.

Vaccines work by training the immune system in advance so that the body can quickly recognise and fight against viruses it is exposed to that can cause serious illness. Vaccines not only protect you but contribute to protecting those around you and the entire community.  

As more people in Australia start to get their shots, you might have some questions. Which vaccine will you get and how?  Are they safe? And the big one – when will you be able to get yours? Here’s what you need to know. 

I'm 50 or over and want my shot. What do I do? 

Good news! Everyone in Australia 50 and over is now eligible to receive an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. In Australia, Tthe AstraZeneca vaccine is being prioritised for people aged 50 and over because they are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, meaning protection from an effective vaccine is important. The prioritised vaccine for people aged under 50 is the Pfizer vaccine. 

Use the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker to find out when you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are eligible now, you can view vaccination clinics and make a booking.  

You can also call the national coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine helpline on 1800 020 080 for details about which clinic to call but call centre staff are unable to book an appointment on your behalf. The vaccine has been prioritised for those in high risk occupations or with medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19. 

I’m under 50. When will I get my shot? 

You can use the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker to see what phase you are in and when you’re likely to get your shot. Currently if you are over 40 years old, you can get vaccinated now. The prioritised vaccine for people aged under 50 is the Pfizer vaccine.  

There are some specific groups who are eligible even if they’re under 40 years old and the eligibility checker will help you to find if you fall into these categories. 

Who is currently eligible?

  • All adults aged 40 and over 
  • Quarantine and border workers 
  • Health care workers  
  • NDIS participants aged years 16 and over, and carers of NDIS participants of any age 
  • Aged care and disability care residents and staff 
  • People aged 16 and over with an underlying medical condition or significant disability 
  • People aged 16 and over who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 
  • People aged 16 and over who or are critical and high risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing
  • Temporary visa holders aged under 50 years who are currently in Australia and have been approved for return travel to Australia through the travel exemption process

I’m under 50. Which vaccine is safe for me?

In Australia, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is preferred in adults aged under 50. Younger people are more likely than older people to experience a very rare blood clotting complication that has been observed with the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

This advice is under constant review and experts will reassess the benefits versus risks across age groups of vaccination especially and this advice may change if a large outbreak of COVID-19 were to occur in Australia.  
An elderly woman in Nepal's remote far west receives the COVID-19 vaccine. UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable communities around the world. © UNICEF/UN0431179

I’m breastfeeding, should I get the vaccine when I can? 

There is no evidence of safety issues in breastfeeding women who have received COVID-19 vaccines. If you are breastfeeding, and you meet the current eligibility criteria, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine at any time. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination.  

I’m trying for a baby or expecting, can I get vaccinated? 

If you're trying to get pregnant, getting vaccinated before conceiving means you will have some protection against COVID-19 throughout your pregnancy. You can get the Pfizer vaccine when you are eligble.

If you are already pregnant, the recommendation is that you do not get vaccinated. There are currently limited clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women, therefore it’s not routinely recommended to be vaccinated during pregnancy. You will be eligible once you have your baby.

For the latest information visit the Australian Department of Health website. 

I’m under 16 or have kids under 16. Why aren’t kids getting vaccinated? 

Children are less likely to develop severe illness when infected with COVID-19, compared to cases in adults. Trials of COVID-19 vaccines for administration in children are underway globally.  

Children under 18 years will be eligible for the vaccine under phase 3 of Australia’s rollout, if research determines the vaccines are safe and effective and following approval from Australia’s medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).  
Hanan Kasim, 26, a health worker after being vaccinated at a health centre in Afar, Ethiopia. @UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Tewodros Tadesse

What’s this about blood clots?  

You might have heard about the recent changes to Australia’s vaccine rollout.  

Firstly, rest assured that all COVID-19 vaccines made available in Australia are safe and effective. Vaccines must be approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Australia’s independent medicines regulator.  

A very rare but serious side effect has emerged with the AstraZeneca vaccine – blood clotting syndrome called thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopenia (TSS). The syndrome only appears in four to six cases per 1 million but is currently estimated to occur at higher rates in those under 50.  

Based on this evidence, medical experts in Australia have weighed up the benefits vs risks of vaccination across different age groups and recommended Australia’s two types of vaccines be prioritised based on age. That is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those aged under 50 and AstraZeneca for those 50 and over. 

You can learn more about vaccine safety here.

What to expect 

It’s not uncommon to feel a bit off in the days after your vaccination. Side effects are usually mild and go away within one or two days.  

Common side effects of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines include: 
  • pain, swelling, tenderness, redness or itching at the injection site 
  • tiredness 
  • headache 
  • muscle pain 
  • nausea 
Less common side effects include:  
  • enlarged lymph nodes  
  • pain in limb  
  • dizziness  
  • decreased appetite  
  • stomach pain 
Remember to book your second appointment! Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines approved in Australia are needed to be fully protect against the disease.

You should receive your second dose: 
  • about 12 weeks after your first shot if you get the AstraZeneca vaccine 
  • about 3 weeks after your first shot if you get the Pfizer vaccine

Want more information?  

If you’re worried about getting your COVID-19 vaccine, that’s perfectly normal. 
To find out more you can: 
  If you’ve heard something about vaccines and you’re not sure whether it’s accurate, you can also read Is it true? – a dedicated section on the Department of Health’s website that provides factual answers to speculation about vaccines. 

This article was written in partnership with the Austalian Department of Health and last updated on 17 May 2021. It will continue to be updated to reflect the latest information. 

Use the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker to find out  
when you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 
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