Frequently Asked Questions

 

The Western Health Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a summary of common questions and answers regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine and the COVID-19 Vaccination Hub being operated by Western Health. FAQs are based on the most up to date information available, and answers will be be updated as further information is available. References and recommended reading can be found at the end of this information.

Key Messages:

  • As a frontline workforce, you have been prioritised to receive COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Vaccination will be phased and is free.
  • By being vaccinated you are helping to protect yourself, your family and your colleagues from serious COVID-19 health implications

 

 

ABOUT THE VACCINE

What vaccines are used in Australia?

Two vaccines, the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine and the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, have been approved by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia. Approval has also been given for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be manufactured in Australia.

Click on the following links to review:

In addition, The Moderna Australia COVID-19 vaccine called Spikevax (elasomeran) was provisionally approved by the TGA for people 18 and over on 9 August 2021.  It is recommended that the vaccine is given in two doses that are administered 28 days apart. Read the TGA announcement

Before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in Australia, it must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) rigorous assessment and approval processes. This includes assessment of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness.

The TGA works with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and is in contact with overseas vaccine regulators to monitor the use and safety of vaccines used in Australia. Advice from these groups informs Victorian and Federal Government direction on the safe use of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia.

You can contact the Federal Government’s COVID vaccine enquiries email if you have any questions about  the vaccines used in Australia.

 

What if I have had issues with other vaccines or I have a medical condition that increases risks associated with vaccination?

Your GP/other healthcare provider can provide advice or talk with you about personal risks you may have associated with COVID-19 vaccination.

Our Western Health Specialist Immunisation Clinic, which will support the provision of ambulatory care to high-risk vaccine recipients wanting to be administered the COVID-19 vaccination has commenced.  This Western Health Clinic, led by Dr Katherine Langan is an important milestone in allowing people who are identified as being high risk vaccination candidates to be reviewed and have plans developed to allow them to be safely vaccinated.

 

Which COVID-19 vaccine will we receive?

The Vaccination sites within our Hub are able to administer both the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

On 17 June 2021, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on immunisation (ATAGI) recommended that use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is preferred over AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in adults aged < 60 years who have not already received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. This is based both on the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age (and thus increased benefit of vaccination), and the potentially lower, but not zero, risk of Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) with increasing age.

Click here to view Commonwealth information sheet on ‘AstraZeneca vaccine and the TTS’.

People who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine without any serious adverse effects can be given their second dose. This includes adults under 60 years of age.

It is important to note that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not expressly prohibited, and governments have undertaken work to ensure resources are developed to allow people aged under 60 to have the vaccine with full informed consent. The COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 60 years where the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.

People aged 18 to 39 years old who provide informed consent are able to book to get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine at Victorian state-run vaccination centres.

 

Does the vaccine protect us from the variants of the coronavirus?

People who have received two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have been found to have strong T-cell responses against the UK and South African variants of COVID-19, suggesting that the vaccines will continue to protect against serious disease in the coming months.

In Scotland and England, data suggests that even a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca provided significant protection against severe disease (hospitalization and death) from the B1.1.7 strain that was first recognized in the UK.

New information about the COVID-19 vaccines is becoming available all the time. For the most up-to-date information visit the Australian Government’s Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine website.

 

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the COVID-19 virus. It is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine as it does not contain any live virus.

 

I have already had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. You will still need the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve had COVID-19.

In clinical trials of vaccine, no specific safety issues were reported among people who had previously been infected with COVID-19.

 

Can I still get COVID-19 if I have been vaccinated?

We currently do not know how effective COVID-19 vaccines are at preventing the spread of the virus. This means that SARS-CoV-2 could potentially still infect a vaccinated person. Even if they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms they could still pass it on to others. However, current data looks promising that transmission is reduced after vaccination.

 

How and where will the COVID-19 vaccine administration be registered/recorded?

The COVID-19 vaccine will be recorded on the Australia Immunisation Record (AIR). This is a national register that records vaccines given to all people in Australia. The AIR can be accessed via MyGov through your Medicare link.

 

How is the COVID-19 vaccine administered?

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered via an intramuscular (IM) injection. The recommended injection site is the deltoid (upper arm).

The only way to administer the COVID-19 vaccine is through a needle. Please talk to your GP and let staff know if you are afraid of needles when you attend your appointment.

What is in the COVID-19 vaccines? 

In Australia, two types of vaccines have been approved, messenger RNA vaccines (Pfizer and  Moderna) and a vector vaccine (AstraZeneca).

The following links include the ingredients list of each COVID-19 vaccine:

Pfizer,

Moderna,

AstraZeneca.

How do the vaccines work?

This information from the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) provides an excellent overview of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The following are links from the MVEC site on both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines:

https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine/

https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/university-of-oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine/

 

PRIORITISATION OF THE VACCINE

How will the COVID-19 vaccine be prioritised and rolled out?

As of 4 October 2021, all Victorians over the age of 12 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. That means, anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible to receive either Pfizer or AstraZeneca – with people aged 16 to 17 able to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

All health care workers are eligible to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine regardless of age.

Refer to the C’wealth ‘When will I get a COVID-19 vaccine’ to learn about vaccination program phases and priority groups.

 

What about healthcare students working in hospital departments while on placement? Will they be provided with the COVID-19 vaccine?

For the purposes of vaccination, students will be managed and offered the COVID-19 vaccine like clinical staff.

 

When can my friends and family receive their vaccine?

A number of health services support community vaccination / community vaccination sites.

General practices, Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services, and GP-led respiratory clinics have also joined the vaccination rollout.

Australians eligible for vaccination will be able to find a vaccination provider through the national vaccination information and location service, at the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker.

We are currently running a number of community vaccination services across the region, including at:

These services are providing COVID-19 vaccines to those in current priority groups, in accordance with Commonwealth guidelines.

 

PROCESS AND TIMING

What is the process and timing for vaccinations?

To make a COVID-19 vaccination booking at any of our vaccination sites, phone the Department of Health Victorian Vaccine Coordination Centre on 1800 675 398 or go to https://cvms.powerappsportals.com/

The COVID-19 vaccines being administered or considered for administration in Australia all require a two-dose regime.

It is important that you receive two doses of your COVID-19 vaccine.

The two doses need to be given a few weeks apart. As of Monday 2 August, state-run vaccination centres will administer the second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least six weeks after the first dose. For the AstraZeneca vaccine you can get your second dose any time between 4-12 weeks (after 8 weeks is preferred). In the event of an active COVID-19 outbreak, the timing of a second dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine may reduce to between 4-8 weeks.

Full protection against COVID-19 will not occur until about a week after your second dose.

On 13 July Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) released updated advice about the optimal time between the two doses of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in an outbreak setting. This advice was in outbreak situations an interval of between 4 and 8 weeks is preferred.

 

What if I can’t make my vaccine appointment (first or second)?

Your appointment can be rescheduled. You should not attend a vaccination appointment if you are unwell with symptoms that could be from COVID-19, are awaiting COVID-19 test results, have tested positive with COVID-19, or are in quarantine or in close contact of someone with COVID-19.

 

SIDE EFFECTS

How will I be monitored after receiving the vaccine?

The risks associated with a serious event occurring after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly low. However to be safe, everybody that receives a COVID vaccine will be monitored in an observation areas for at least 15 minutes after receiving their dose.

 

What happens if I have anaphylaxis or another serious side effect?

The Vaccination Hub and Sub-Hubs are fully equipped with emergency equipment and medications, and have a medical officer and experienced nurse immunisers on site. Detailed medical emergency protocols are also be in place to ensure that a rapid response is enacted when required.

 

Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause scarring on the arm as a possible side effect?

Scarring at the vaccination site, such as was commonly associated with the smallpox vaccine, is not a reported side effect of the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

 

What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

As part of regulatory assessment, the Therapeutic Goods Administration considers information about possible side effects. For a vaccine to be registered for use in Australia, the benefits must outweigh the risks. All vaccines can cause side effects. Usually any side effects are mild and temporary.

Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines have reported temporary side effects typical of vaccines, such as pain or redness at the injection site, as well as mild to moderate fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches and chills. For the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, these side effects may be more common after the second dose. For the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, these side effects may be more common after the first dose.

A small number of people may have more severe side effects – defined as side effects affecting a person’s ability to do their normal daily activities. These side effects usually only last a day or two after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Monitoring of vaccine-related side effects will continue after a COVID-19 vaccine has been registered.

Refer to the following documents for further information:

If you want to check any symptoms following your vaccination a vaccine side effects tracker has been released by the Australian Government

 

If you have side effects after your COVID-19 vaccination how will this affect your staff attestation and ability to work?

It is possible that after the receiving the vaccine that you will get some COVID-19-type symptoms, particularly after the second dose for the Pfizer vaccine and the first dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

If you just have pain or redness at the injection site, then you are able to work.

If you have a fever, temperature, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, chills or any other symptoms that are listed on your daily attestation survey in the 1-2 days after having the vaccine then it is most likely a side-effect. However while you have symptoms should not come to work. A protocol has been developed to help with decision making.

The following applies to Western Health Employees:

Where an employee receives the COVID-19 vaccination from 1 March 2021 onwards, and experiences an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) of the COVID-19 vaccination, thus resulting in them being unfit to attend work, they will be eligible to receive:

  • Special Leave with Pay for a maximum of two (2) days’ per vaccination, with a total of four (4) days in total, per employee for 2021; and
  • Each employee is required to provide evidence in the form of a medical certificate to receive the entitlement

Special Leave Vacc COVID leave type will be available for Managers to enter where an employee is absent following the receipt of the COVID vaccination as a result of adverse events or experiencing symptoms.

Where this occurs for WH’s casual workforce, we request that an email be sent to pccbusinesspartners@wh.org.au outlining the employee’s number, employee full name, date of vaccination and rostered shift(s) accepted but unable to be fulfilled.

For all employees that received Personal Leave COVID vacc for an absence following their COVID vaccination, Payroll Services will be reversing a maximum of two (2) days entitlement per vaccination to Special Leave Vacc COVID reflective in your upcoming payslips.

In the instance where an employee utilised Personal Leave entitlements, a different approved leave or unpaid leave to cover their absence following the COVID vaccination, they will be required to:

  • Submit a written request to their direct Manager outlining the following information:
    • Employee Number
    • Employee Full Name
    • Date of COVID Vaccination
    • Date(s) of absences – maximum of two (2) days per COVID vaccination
  • Direct Manager will then be required to verify and email this information to pccbusinesspartners@wh.org.au for processing in the next available pay cycle.

 

Will you need a COVID swab if you become symptomatic post vaccination?

If you have any COVID-19-type symptoms that subside within 24 hours following receiving the vaccine, then you are able to safely return to work. If the symptoms do not subside after 24 hours or your symptoms start to include respiratory type symptoms (including cough, sore throat and runny nose), then please remain at home and get a COVID swab.

 

If I have a reaction to the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, can I still have a second dose?

If you have a non-allergic reaction, for example if you faint, you can receive the second dose.

If you have a mild to moderate reaction you can still receive the second dose but must remain in the vaccination hub and under supervision for 30 minutes after your second dose.

If you experience anaphylaxis, you should consult your doctor and consider referral to a Specialist Immunisation Service clinic or an allergy specialist before receiving the second dose. If in doubt, always speak with your doctor first.

 

EFFECTIVENESS

How long does the COVID-19 vaccination effect last before you require anther one?

Data regarding the length of protection following vaccination is still being gathered from clinical trials. The length of protection is still unclear and hence the timing and need for a booster has not been established. Currently, no additional doses beyond the first two are recommended. It is possible that booster doses may be required in the future.

 

Do I still need to follow COVID-safe practices when I’ve had my vaccination?

Yes. Restrictions and guidelines regarding for example physical distancing and use of PPE still need to be followed following vaccination.

 

TIMING OF DOSES

Can the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine be taken together? If not, how far apart?

On 9 June 20201, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation issued updated advice on the relative timing of administering influenza vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.

The preferred minimum interval between a dose of influenza vaccine and a dose of either Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is now 7 days (previously 14 days).

 

If you run out of Pfizer vaccine can you have an Astra Zeneca dose later?

There are no current clinical trial data assessing the interchangeability of different vaccines and hence the same brand of vaccine should be given for both the first and second dose. It is too early to determine if and when a subsequent booster dose will be required and hence, the interchangeability of booster doses is still unknown.

 

Will I need a COVID-19 vaccination booster?

On 8 October 2021 ATAGI recommended the use of a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised only. Currently the Public Health Directive does not mention boosters or third doses; however it is possible that the Directive may be updated if ATAGI recommended that boosters for healthcare workers are required.

More information is available here.

 

Immunisation Record

How do I update my immunisation record to reflect that I am double vaccinated? 

Your immunisation record should update automatically to reflect your current vaccination status, however in some instances this is not the case.

If your immunisation record does not update automatically you are advised to contact the vaccination provider. There are a few ways to do this, by calling the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398, or by emailing covidvaccineenquiries@health.gov.au.

ABOUT THE VACCINATION HUB

Where are the Vaccination Hubs located?

The primary Hub for our region has been established at Sunshine Hospital, with capacity for up to 60 cubicles, in a purpose-built semi-permanent facility constructed on the ground floor of the multi-deck carpark.  Western Health has worked with Royal Melbourne Hospital to establish a Parkville ‘sub-hub’ to provide easier access to the vaccine for hospital staff within the Parkville precinct (RMH, RWH, RCH, Peter Mac). We have also worked with Mercy Werribee to establish a ‘sub-hub’ to cover the Werribee precinct.

A high volume community vaccination hub at the Showgrounds has been developed, as well as a hub in Wyndham and a hub that includes a drive thru vaccination service in Melton.

Information about each of the vaccination hubs, including site maps and the vaccination process can be accessed by clicking here.

Other strategic locations across the west of Melbourne may be established in the future.

 

Do I need to apply for a job through e-recruit to help with the vaccination hub jobs?

An expression of interest was previously requested for nurse immunisers, with an excellent response of over 400 nurses! As further training and positions in the vaccination hub become available, they will be advertised through email and e-mercury. Interested clinicians are encouraged to check their email regularly and/or update their e-mercury notifications.

 

How will the staff giving the vaccine be trained?

The Hubs are staffed by experienced staff who provide overarching supervision of vaccination and recovery.  We have recruited a large number of nurses to administer the vaccine, as well as other staff who will fill support roles. All staff working within the Vaccination Hub receive specific training mandated by the Commonwealth and the Department of Health Victoria to ensure they are appropriately educated and trained to safely and effectively undertake all elements of their role.

 

Will the vaccine hubs operate 7 days per week?

The hubs will respond to bookings for COVID-19 vaccines and modify operating hours accordingly to ensure staff across all shifts access to the vaccine.

 

How can I stay up-to-date about the Vaccination Hub?

To provide information on the plans for vaccine rollout and provide a transparent communication process about the COVID-19 Vaccination Hubs, Webinars are being held. These Webinars present information about the Vaccination Hubs and provides answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccines, how they work, their safety and efficacy, Commonwealth designated eligibility and how the vaccines will be distributed and administered.

Recordings of the Webinars plus slides used in these sessions are available in the News and Webinars section of the Vaccination Hub site.

 

ADVICE FOR STAFF RE VACCINES AND PREGNANCY

Is there advice for staff that are currently pregnant or breastfeeding?

Global surveillance data from large numbers of people who are pregnant have not found any significant safety concerns with COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. There is also evidence of antibody in blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity.

People who are pregnant who contract COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness and adverse pregnancy outcomes. COVID-19 during pregnancy also increases the risk of complications for the baby.

International data has indicated mRNA vaccines – including Pfizer – are safe to be given at any stage during pregnancy and are also suitable for people who are breastfeeding.

The Australian Government’s advice remains unchanged for people trying to become pregnant and breastfeeding:  People who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination. If you are breastfeeding, you can have the Pfizer vaccine. You do not need to stop breastfeeding after vaccination.

(Source: Australian Government 26 July 2021)

For more information on use of the vaccine in pregnancy and breastfeeding see: COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

Where can I find resources that provide COVID-19 vaccine information in other languages?

Information about COVID-19 vaccines is available from the Australian Government. Find information in your language at: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.

 

Where can I find COVID-19 vaccine information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Information about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is available from the Australian Government. Find information by clicking here.

 

Where can I find COVID-19 vaccine information for people with a Disability?

Information about COVID-19 vaccines for people with a disability is available from the Australian Government. Find information by clicking here.