Dr SHANNON MELODY*
COVID-19 vaccinations are a big step towards protecting the lives of millions of people worldwide and reducing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All Tasmanians should have accurate information to help them make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination is an important way to protect you, your family and your community against COVID-19.
High levels of vaccination against COVID-19 are a key tool in fighting the pandemic. If most of the adult population gets vaccinated, this will reduce the pandemic’s health, social and economic impacts.
Two COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Australia: the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine. Both vaccines require two doses. For the Pfizer vaccine, you will receive two vaccinations approximately three weeks apart. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, you will receive two vaccinations about 12 weeks apart.
Both vaccines are highly effective at reducing the severity of COVID-19. Both vaccines work by training your immune system to recognise and respond to the virus that causes COVID-19.
All vaccines can have side effects, and the COVID-19 vaccines are no different. After vaccination, some people experience no side effects and some experience mild side effects. Serious side effects are very rare.
Common side effects may include redness at the vaccine site, a sore arm, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people may also experience a mild fever or headache. These symptoms usually start within 24 hours of vaccination and last for one to two days. They are not of concern unless severe or persistent. If you experience side effects that worry you, contact your GP.
A rare but serious side effect called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) has been associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. TTS occurs when there are blood clots (thrombosis) and low platelets (thrombocytopenia). This syndrome generally occurs between four to 20 days after the first dose of the vaccine. Global data suggests that while the overall incidence of TTS is low, it is higher in those under 50 years of age. This syndrome is different from more common clots, such as deep vein thrombosis. These more common blood clots can occur in around 50 Australians every day, separate from vaccination, and are not related to the rare TTS clotting disorder.
TTS has not occurred after the Pfizer vaccine so it is the preferred vaccine for people under 50 years of age.
If you have already received your first dose of AstraZeneca without complication, there is no reason to delay or miss your second dose (even if you are under 50). Both doses of the vaccine are required to be protected against COVID-19.
Decisions about which vaccine to administer are based on the best medical evidence available.
If you have concerns about your circumstances or condition, speak to your doctor or health care provider.
*Dr Shannon Melody is a specialist medical advisor for the Tasmanian Vaccination Emergency Operations Centre