COVID-19 vaccines – your questions answered
Evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
Should I delay my vaccination if I have had COVID-19?
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends waiting 3 months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection to get your next COVID-19 vaccine or booster 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.
There are multiple COVID-19 subvariants currently circulating in the community. These subvariants can reinfect people who have previously had COVID-19 as quickly as 4 weeks after their previous infection.
I have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, why do I need additional doses?
Studies show that the immunity created by COVID-19 vaccines begins to wane over time.
A booster dose strengthens your immunity and helps to maintain a high level of protection against serious illness from COVID-19, including against disease from the Omicron variant.
Booster doses offer better protection against COVID-19 than two primary doses alone, significantly reducing your risk of serious illness and death.
As evidence on booster doses or new variants emerges, recommendations may be updated by The Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI). For more information about COVID-19 booster doses, see booster vaccination.
Why is it important to have both the COVID-19 and influenza (flu) vaccines?
COVID-19 vaccines protect against the SARS-COV-2 virus, and flu vaccines protect against the Influenza A and Influenza B viruses.
The COVID-19 vaccine won’t protect you against flu, and the flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19 so you still need to get both vaccines.
While the vaccines may not always stop you catching COVID-19 or flu, they do reduce the severity and length of illness. They’re also very effective at reducing the chance you will need to be admitted to hospital.
Staying up to date with vaccinations is one simple step you can take to protect yourself against flu and COVID-19.
What are the benefits of vaccinating children against COVID-19?
While the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk, anyone, including healthy young people, can get severe disease from COVID-19.
Some children infected with COVID-19 can end up with severe lung infections, become very sick and need to be hospitalised.
Children can also suffer from long-term symptoms that affect their health and wellbeing into the future.
All children aged 5 and over are recommended to receive COVID-19 vaccination to protect them from getting severe illness from COVID-19. Vaccination is also recommended for children aged 6 months to under 5 who are severely immunocompromised, have a disability, or have complex and/or multiple health conditions which increase the risk of severe COVID-19. Read the Australian Government infographic on the recommended number of doses for people under 18.
If your child has already had COVID-19 it is still possible for them to catch COVID-19 again. Vaccination enhances your child’s immunity. Children who have previously had COVID-19 can get their recommended COVID- 19 vaccinations 3 months after their COVID-19 infection.
Read more on COVID-19 vaccination for children.
How do COVID-19 vaccines boost my immune system?
COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognise and fight the COVID-19 virus. This means that if you encounter the virus after vaccination, your immune system can fight the virus faster and more effectively before it makes you seriously ill.
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.
To receive the best protection against serious illness or death from COVID-19, you should stay up to date with all COVID-19 vaccinations recommended for your age or individual health needs.
Is the immunity I get from vaccination stronger than immunity I get from being sick with COVID-19?
Vaccines are a safer and more consistent way to gain protection than recovering from a COVID-19 infection.
Vaccination provides a strong immune response and protects against infection, reinfection, and serious illness.
You may gain some immunity from being sick with COVID-19. But if you are infected with COVID-19, you may end up very sick and need to be hospitalised. You can also suffer from long COVID-19 symptoms which might affect your health and wellbeing into the future.
Vaccines provide added protection for people who have already had COVID-19 and reduce the severity of illness compared to previous infection alone.
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. You can also suffer from long-term symptoms that affect your health and wellbeing into the future.
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
How do COVID-19 vaccines protect me if I'm pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy?
Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy are recommended to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations to reduce their risk of severe illness.
If you’re pregnant and become infected with COVID-19, you are at greater risk of severe illness 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. The risk of severe illness decreases with the number of vaccine doses you have received.
COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk of complications for the newborn. By getting vaccinated, you also protect your baby. Antibodies your body produces after being vaccinated can be passed to your baby in cord blood and breastmilk and may offer protection to your baby through passive immunity.
Real-world evidence shows that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are effective and very safe to use if you are pregnant.
Approval of COVID-19 vaccines for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding occurred after the vaccines were approved for the general population, because conclusive data was needed to show the vaccines were safe and effective.
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.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccination at any stage of pregnancy and in those planning pregnancy or breastfeeding.
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) regulates prescription medicines and vaccines for use in Australia.
The TGA conducts a rigorous assessment and approval process for all vaccines, which includes reviewing impacts of vaccines on fertility. The TGA will not approve a vaccine for use in Australia unless it is safe and effective.
The COVID-19 vaccine, like other vaccines, works by training our bodies to develop antibodies to fight against the virus that causes COVID-19, to prevent or reduce the severity of future illness.
There is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta.
The TGA has undertaken all necessary processes and has approved the AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax vaccines for use in Australia.
The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are the preferred vaccines for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What is myocarditis and pericarditis and can they be linked to COVID-19 vaccination?
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds the heart muscle. The conditions can occur separately or together (myopericarditis).
Myocarditis and/or pericarditis have been reported as rare side effects after COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in males aged 16 to 40 years. Cases have also been reported in females and rarely in children.
ATAGI has provided guidance on myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccines. ATAGI emphasises that the benefits of vaccination in protecting against COVID-19 greatly outweigh the rare risk of myocarditis and/or pericarditis.
The symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis can appear within a few days of vaccination and are usually mild. Symptoms can include chest pain, irregular heartbeat or skipped heartbeats, shortness of breath, or pain with breathing.
People who experience any of these symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
It is important to note that there could be other causes for these symptoms. Adults who present with chest pain following a COVID-19 vaccine will also be investigated for other causes of chest pain (such as acute coronary syndrome) to ensure they receive the right treatment.
How were COVID-19 vaccines developed?
Viruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19 aren’t new.
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.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented global funding and collaboration contributed to rapid progress in developing the COVID-19 vaccines, while ensuring all steps in scientific testing and approval were completed.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone around the world. Clinical trials progress more quickly when a disease is widespread, as with COVID-19, as a significant difference in health outcomes between unvaccinated and vaccinated groups of people can be detected sooner than for a rare disease.
All 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?
Numerous studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines provide excellent protection against severe disease.
For people who are at higher risk of severe illness, it is even more important to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.
Being vaccinated for COVID-19 dramatically reduces your risk of needing to go to hospital. This reduces the pressure on our hospital system, maintaining availability for those who need hospitals for other reasons.
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.
Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccinations or booster doses are available at thousands of locations across NSW including pharmacies and GPs.
The Vaccine Clinic Finder is an easy way to find and book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for assistance, or SMS ‘Hey EVA’ to the Easy Vaccine Access (EVA) call back service on 0481 611 382 between 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week. These messages are received by the National Coronavirus Helpline. You will receive a call back from a trained agent who will help you find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment based on your individual needs. This includes finding places where no appointment is needed (walk ins) or places where you can get a free COVID-19 vaccine without Medicare. Free interpreter services are also available.
For COVID-19 vaccination assistance in your language, call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 and choose option 8 for free interpreting assistance.