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COVID-19 Vaccine

As the peak body for Aboriginal Health in South Australia, the Aboriginal Health Council SA endorses the Australian public health position on COVID-19 vaccination. The TGA approved vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of serious illness, including hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19. There is also emerging evidence that the vaccines reduce transmission of the disease.  We support and encourage Aboriginal communities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Why should I have a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 can be a very serious illness, especially for our elders and those in our community who have existing medical conditions. Getting a vaccine is one of the best ways of protecting ourselves and others in the community from getting really sick, being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19.

As time goes on, there has been more evidence to suggest that vaccines will help to reduce the spread of the virus.

Encouraging your family, Elders and the community to get vaccinated so that everyone is protected from serious illness is the best defence you have against the COVID-19 virus.

It’s normal to experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination:

All vaccines can have some side effects, but usually they don’t last long (maybe a couple of days) and they are mild. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Feeling a bit unwell, like after having a flu shot
  • Sore arm
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever

Rare side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are exactly that, very rare, and uncommon; however, it’s important to know what they are so you can be prepared for all circumstances:

  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • A very rare blood clotting condition after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)

How do I know what vaccine is right for us to get?

There are currently four vaccines available in Australia and they are the Vaxzevria (formally known as AstraZeneca), Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines.  

The best thing to do is talk to your GP about your personal circumstances to find out which vaccine is right for you.

To receive the best protection against serious illness from COVID-19, you should stay up to date with all vaccination doses recommended for your age.

At present it’s not mandatory to have the vaccine in Australia, but we are all encouraged to have the vaccine recommended for us as soon as possible. 

The vaccines are recommended for children 5 and above and adults and are also safe for women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.

Moderna vaccination for 6 months-5 year olds

Recently, The National COVID Vaccine Taskforce announced plans to start a new early childhood COVID-19 vaccination program, which means that some young kids can get vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Vaccination for this age group will begin across Australia on the 5th of September 2022
  • Children aged between 6 months and 5 years, who are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 will be eligible
  • Initially the vaccine will be offered to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children who are severely immunocompromised, are living with disability, or have complex/multiple health conditions
  • Children aged 5 years and over still encouraged to have their COVID-19 vaccinations

The only vaccine that has been approved so far for the under 5 age group is the Moderna vaccine (also known as Spikevax).

  • It will be a much smaller dose than for adults, and will come in a different container and formulation
  • Most children will be offered 2 doses, except for children with severe immune compromise who will need 3 doses
  • The doses will be given 8 weeks apart
  • If children have had a COVID-19 infection, in most situations it is advised to wait 3 months afterwards before having the vaccination. Local health practitioners and GP’s can provide further advice around this.

As with other phases of the COVID-19 vaccine ‘rollout’, those who are most at-risk are being prioritised to start with.

The Moderna vaccine has been given to a lot of children in this age group overseas, and there is evidence that it is safe and effective. Like other vaccines, there is a chance of some side effects like a fever.

Some children might be offered the vaccination when they go to hospital for specialist appointments, but it is safe to give it at a local clinic.

Parents, carers and families will have the opportunity to speak with the clinic/trusted health professionals about the vaccine and it is encouraged to ask questions and make sure that everyone is comfortable with the information given, before making the decision to have a vaccination.

Vaccine doses 

All of the available COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. However, extra booster doses are now recommended in many age groups.    

A booster dose will make sure that the protection from the first two doses is even stronger and longer lasting. Booster doses are particularly important to protect from the newer Omicron subvariants of COVID-19. 

Booster doses 

Booster doses can be given three months after people have had their initial COVID-19 vaccinations.   

Booster doses are recommended for all people aged 16 years and older. However, some young people aged 5-15 years, with underlying medical conditions, should also have a booster dose.  

A booster dose increases your protection against: 

- infection of the virus that causes COVID-19 

- severe disease  

- dying from COVID-19 

A booster dose will continue to protect you, your loved ones and your community against COVID-19 and booster doses will be free for everyone.  

Booster dose recommendations

It is recommended you have the age-appropriate Pfizer vaccine as a booster if you are:  

  • 5 to 15 years old, and,  
  • are severely immunocompromised, or  
  • have a disability with significant or complex health needs, or  
  • have complex and/or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19  
  • 16 or 17 years old,  
  • Novavax COVID-19 vaccine can be used as a booster dose in people 12 years of age and over, if no other COVID-19 vaccine is suitable for that individual. 

Booster doses for people aged 18 years and older

If you are aged 18 years or older, you can have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster dose regardless of which vaccine you had for your first 2 doses. 

As of September 2022, there is a new type of Moderna vaccine that can be used for the booster doses in adults. This is called ‘Moderna bivalent’. It was formulated to protect specifically from the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as previous types of the virus. However, all of the available boosters help us to fight Omicron. The best advice is to book for a booster if you are due, and to speak with your clinic about the types that are available. If you aged 18 years or older, you can also choose the Novavax or Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccines as a booster dose instead, for example if there are medical reasons to avoid the other vaccines.

Fourth booster dose

You should get another COVID-19 booster dose, also referred to as a ‘fourth dose’, if you have had your initial booster dose 3 months ago and you are: 

  • 50 years or older 
  • a resident of an aged care or disability care facility 
  • severely immunocompromised 
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and aged 50 years and older 
  • 16 years or older with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness 
  • 16 years or older with a disability. 

A fourth dose is also available to people aged 30 to 49 years old if they choose. 

People who had COVID-19 after their first booster should wait at least 3 months before having a forth dose. 

A booster dose will continue to protect you, your loved ones and your community against COVID-19 and booster doses will be free for everyone. More information about the COVID-19 booster vaccination program can be found at the Australian Government Department of Health website. 

 

We can still get the COVID-19 virus once we’ve had the vaccination, but it is still very important that we do have it to protect ourselves and our community

The COVID-19 vaccines will not be able to fully protect us against COVID-19, just like the flu jab will not be able to fully protect us against the flu.

Even after you are fully vaccinated, you may still get the COVID-19 infection, but it is very reassuring to know that the vaccines are very effective at helping prevent us from getting very sick, going to hospital or dying from COVID-19.

ATAGI Recommended Doses and Vaccines

Vaccine for children and youth

COVID-19 Vaccine Comparison Poster - September 2022

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ for Aboriginal Communities - SA Health

Some useful links relating to the COVID-19 vaccinations:

The Australian Government Department of Health | Eligibility Checker (you can book in for your COVID-19 vaccine here)

The Australian Government Department of Health | Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The Australian Government Department of Health | COVID-19 Vaccination common questions – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people