When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available?

The Phase 1a for COVID-19 will begin on 22nd February, 2021. The particular phase will include those under international arrivals, border and quarantine workers, community health workers, workers under disability and aged care, and those residing in aged and disability care facilities.

The commencement of Phase 1b is scheduled on Monday 22nd March, 2021. The people getting vaccinated under this phase include:

  • Adults aged above 70 years.
  • Adults belonging to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community aged above 55 years.
  • Employed healthcare workers and those not covered under phase 1a.
  • High risk workers presently employed (these include fire fighters, police, defence staff, emergency workers, and those working in meat processing).
  • People above 18 years having an underlying medical disorder with disability.

When are the remaining people expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

As per the Australian Health Department, a five-tier priority list has been defined regarding the roll out of the vaccine.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy developed in conjunction with the Australian Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) along with the approval of the National Cabinet there are certain Australians prioritised at high risk of contracting COVID-19. These include Australia’s essential health service workers, workers in quarantine facilities, residents of aged care, and staff.

At the moment, the roll out of the vaccine is in progression. Thus far, more than 253,000 Australians have been vaccinated. For the states and territories as well as Commonwealth, vaccination sites are gradually scaling up as the increased vaccine supply becomes accessible.

The Australian Government targets to get as many people vaccinated for COVID-19 as possible prior to 2021.

What type of COVID-19 vaccines will become available in Australia?

The vaccines currently used by the Australian Health Department are the Pfizer/BioNTech, and the AstraZeneca vaccine (Belonging to University of Oxford).

The vaccines have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and have thus been utilised for phase 1a. The published data, especially by the United Kingdom, indicate a strong support for Australia’s decision in making available the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

A significant number of Australians would receive the Australian-made AstraZeneca vaccine, the drive of which is expected to commence on 22nd March, 2021. Thus far, the AstraZeneca vaccine provided has been bought from overseas.

The vaccines require two doses. For the Pfizer vaccine, the doses are given with a 21 day gap in between whereas the doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are offered usually with a gap of 12 weeks in between.

Is there any fee for the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine can be availed free of charge by those who need get vaccinated

Is vaccination mandatory?

No, it’s not mandatory to get vaccinated in Australia even though the Australian Government does support and encourage immunisation.

What’s the process of getting the vaccine?

Vaccines meant for priority groups get delivered via vaccination clinics found in states and territories-run hospital hubs common in rural and urban areas of Australia. Additionally, in order to create vaccines meant for disability and residential senior care staff and inhabitants a specialised in-reach workforce led by the Commonwealth is given the responsibility.

A significant number of patients currently in Phase 1b would require an appointment. This can be done using either the Commonwealth Booking Platform or the booking system given by the provider, followed by a visit to the clinic for vaccination.

Clinics such as respiratory clinics, General Practice clinics as well as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services would start offering the COVID-19 vaccines starting Phase 1b.

As for the ADF personnel, the Defence would vaccinate them.

What about the safety of the vaccines?

All the vaccines have to pass through different phases of research trials in order to confirm their safety and efficacy. In Australia for the vaccines to be approved for use a rigorous evaluation has to be passed along with other TGA approval processes. This covers assessment of everything from quality to safety and the overall effectiveness of the vaccine.

What is the best way to stay safe from COVID-19?

At the present time, the best thing one can do is strive to keep oneself updated with the important and latest advice as well as stay informed apart from staying COVID-safe. A word of caution has been shared by Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating that everyone will need to follow COVID-safe habits for an extended period of time throughout 2021 or even beyond that.

It is recommended that everyone follows the safety protocols:

  • Practicing good hand hygiene.
  • Maintaining social distancing.
  • Saying home if sick and getting tested on the detection of symptoms
  • Installing the COVIDSafe app.

A suggestion from Services Australia also states that all Australians need to verify whether their Medicare contact details are in place and if they’re linked with the myGov account (for those who don’t have one, it can be easily created in a few steps) It can help you to check the statement of your immunisation history.