COVID-19 vaccines – your questions answered
Evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
Everyone aged 5 years and older in NSW is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccine clinics are located across NSW. Use the Vaccine Clinic Finder to book your vaccination appointment.
Should I delay my vaccination if I have had COVID-19?
ATAGI recommends waiting 3 months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection to get your booster next vaccine dose.
It’s possible to catch COVID-19 more than once. The protection you gain from having had COVID-19 may not protect you from getting it again.
Natural immunity varies between people. Vaccination, on the other hand, provides a strong immune response and excellent protection against infection and serious illness.
Being vaccinated may also protect you against future variants. In contrast, natural immunity tends to provide protection against the strain you have already encountered, rather than from other variants.
What are the benefits of vaccinating children against COVID-19?
Even though COVID-19 in children is often milder than in adults, there’s significant evidence to support vaccinating children. Children aged 5 and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
If they are infected with COVID-19, some children will end up with severe lung infections, become very sick and need to be hospitalised. Children can also suffer from long COVID-19 symptoms that affect their health and wellbeing into the future.
For children, the risk of serious harm from a COVID-19 vaccine is less than the risk from a general anaesthetic or taking penicillin for an infection.
Children are important members of our community with many social contacts. When children are vaccinated, they can play a part in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19. By getting vaccinated, your family will help protect the most vulnerable in our community, including other young children who are immunocompromised or not eligible for vaccination yet.
Looking ahead, making sure as many people as possible are vaccinated, including our children, will help reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus that is in the community. This, in turn, can reduce the chance that COVID-19 will mutate into new variants that might be even more dangerous, especially to young people.
How do COVID-19 vaccines boost my immune system?
The vaccines teach your immune system to recognise and fight the COVID-19 virus. This means if you encounter the virus after vaccination, your immune system can tackle it faster and more effectively, helping to protect you from severe illness.
When you get a COVID-19 vaccine, it usually takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity. In the long-term, only the immune cells that have been trained to recognise COVID-19 will remain in your system, not the vaccine itself.
None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in Australia contain the live COVID-19 virus. This means they cannot give you COVID-19.
How do COVID-19 vaccines protect me if I'm pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy?
Extensive evidence from other countries has shown mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are safe if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or trying for a baby.
By getting vaccinated, you also protect your baby. There is evidence that the antibodies your body produces after being vaccinated can be passed to your baby in cord blood and breastmilk.
Approval of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant and breastfeeding came after the vaccines were approved for the general population, because conclusive data was needed to show the vaccines are safe and effective.
If you’re pregnant and become infected with COVID-19, you’re at greater risk than someone who is not pregnant. This means it’s even more important for you to get vaccinated if you’re planning to get pregnant or are currently pregnant. If you are infected with COVID-19 while pregnant you have:
- Double the risk of needing an ICU (Intensive care unit) admission
- Increased risk of needing ventilation
- Increased risk of requiring a pre-term delivery.
The Australian Government's COVID-19 vaccination – Shared decision making guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy provides answers to questions about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Speak to your doctor or midwife if you have concerns about being vaccinated.
When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, what measures safeguard my fertility and health?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is responsible for regulating prescription medicines and vaccines for use in Australia, will only approve vaccines that are safe and effective.
The TGA ensures that there are rigorous assessment and approval processes for all vaccines. This includes reviewing impacts of vaccines on fertility.
The TGA has undertaken all necessary processes and has approved AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax for use in Australia.
How do we know myocarditis and pericarditis are very rare, and usually easily treated?
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. Myocarditis is where these two conditions occur together.
Myocarditis or pericarditis occurs very rarely in young people including adolescents and children 12 years and older who have had the COVID-19 Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Data from the USA (with data reported through to 11 June 2021) shows that the rate of myocarditis or pericarditis in female adolescents aged 12–17 years was 9.1 per million doses (0.0009%), and in male adolescents of the same age, 66.7 per million doses (0.006%) of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine given.
The symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis can appear within a few days of vaccination and are usually mild. Most children and adults with myocarditis or pericarditis related to COVID-19 vaccination recover quickly after a short period of monitoring, with no treatment or simple pain relief.
Symptoms can include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or a fluttering sensation, shortness of breath, or pain with breathing. If a child or adult experiences any of these symptoms, they should seek prompt medical attention.
It’s important to note that there could be other causes for these symptoms. In young adults, 3-8 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis that are NOT related to COVID-19 vaccination occur each week in Australia.
The rate of myocarditis and pericarditis is higher in people with COVID-19 than after a COVID-19 vaccine.
How were COVID-19 vaccines developed?
Years of research into similar viruses such as the coronaviruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) helped scientists develop safe COVID-19 vaccines. Viruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19 aren’t new, and this work was underway for a long time before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the COVID-19 vaccines, researchers around the world ran important processes like planning, development and implementation side-by side, instead of one after the other. This was possible with unprecedented global funding, to ensure that scientific testing and approval steps were all completed.
All of the COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia have been approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which checks vaccines for safety, quality and effectiveness.
How does being vaccinated protect me, other people, and the hospital system?
Vaccinated people have less chance of catching and spreading COVID-19.
Two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, followed by a booster reduces your risk of serious COVID-19 infection by up to 95%.
Because people whose COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date are less likely to infect others, you’re protecting people who are more vulnerable to disease or who can’t be vaccinated yet.
Being vaccinated for COVID-19 also dramatically reduces your risk of needing to go to hospital, and this limits the stress on our hospital system, helping to keep hospitals open for those who need them for other reasons.
Why does vaccination carry lower risks than COVID-19?
COVID-19 can cause serious illness, medical complications and can unfortunately lead to death in some people.
Older adults or people with existing medical conditions are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
By comparison, the risk of serious harm from a COVID-19 vaccine is less than the risk from a general anaesthetic or taking penicillin for an infection.
Are COVID-19 vaccines appropriate for my religion or faith?
The COVID-19 vaccines approved in Australia do not contain egg or animal products and are suitable for people of all religions and faiths.
Are the vaccines available in my area now?
Vaccination and booster appointments are available at NSW Health vaccination clinics, as well as pharmacies, GPs, and Aboriginal Medical Services across NSW. Many also offer walk-ins.
You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for assistance.
For a free telephone interpreter, call 131 450 and say the language you need in English. Ask the interpreter to connect you to the National Coronavirus Helpline.