By Georgia Parsonson
The swiftness of the COVID-19 vaccine development has raised questions about its efficacy and safety as a medical treatment. For many, those inquiries have not yet been answered.
NIB’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Melissa Niadoo, has all of the answers to the general public’s understandable, most pressing concerns.
First and foremost: Are the vaccines genuinely safe and effective?
Yes, they are. They have been developed rapidly, but none of the regulatory procedures has been ignored. As such, as with every other vaccine approved in Australia, both the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine and the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine have undergone an intensive series of testing conducted by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TgA), and they have proven both safe and effective.
However, if that isn’t reassuring enough, Australians can take comfort in the knowledge that more than 100 million people have already been vaccinated across the globe. To this point, reports indicate that the vaccines have proven 100% effective in protecting people from COVID-19.
As far as potential side effects are concerned, typical vaccination reactions include pain, redness, swelling at the injection site, and a mild fever. These side effects are minor and usually resolve within two days. Severe side effects are extremely rare and are generally apparent within 20 minutes of receiving the injection.
So, since safety and efficacy have been assured, who is actually eligible for the vaccine?
Anyone living in Australia, including all visa holders, refugees, and asylum seekers. Vaccination is not compulsory, though it is encouraged. However, there are limitations. Anyone allergic to any of the components of a vaccine will either be offered another or will not be vaccinated at all. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) have advised pregnant women to avoid it completely.
How will the vaccines be received?
Both vaccines require two doses, and the government has instituted a five-phase rollout scheme to ensure everyone takes them. They’re based on priority, in which the most vulnerable will receive immunisations first, and there is a public health campaign in place to keep the nation informed as the rollout occurs.
Details about the rollout may be found at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/getting-vaccinated-for-covid-19/when-will-i-get-a-covid-19-vaccine#covid19-vaccine-national-rollout-phases
How much does it cost?
Both vaccines are free of charge for all Medicare eligible Australians, and for all Visa holders, excepting visa sub-classes 771 (Transit), 600 (Tourist Stream), 651 (e-Visitor), and 601 (Electronic Travel Authority).
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause coronavirus?
No, it cannot. It doesn’t contain the live virus or even the whole virus that causes COVID-19, so a person will not receive the coronavirus from their vaccination.
Should the flu vaccine be received as well?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines won’t protect anyone from the flu. That’s why it’s essential to maintain good hygiene and to isolate when unwell. Vaccination not only protects the immunised, but it preserves everyone else within the community, as well.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health website at https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.