COVID vaccine calculator: See when you’ll get your jab
Australians aged over 16 will be eligible to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations from Monday but the timing of the jab will depend on your age, health status and occupation.
Immunisation will be voluntary. No one will be forced to have a shot but the protection offered by the jabs will prevent you from getting a severe case of the disease and may eventually allow vaccinated people to travel and work more easily.
Australia has purchased three types of COVID-19 vaccinations - an mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech, a vaccine made from a weakened chimpanzee common cold virus made by AstraZeneca and a vaccine that mimics part of the COVID-19 virus, made by Novavax.
The Pfizer vaccine will be rolled out to people aged over 16 from this week and is expected to be supplied at the rate of 80,000 doses per week.
The first people to be vaccinated with this vaccine will be quarantine and border workers and frontline healthcare workers who will be vaccinated at hubs in major public hospitals.
Aged-care and disability-care staff and residents will also be in the first round of vaccination and they will get the shots in the aged-care or disability homes where they live or work.
Most Australians aged over 18 will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine which will become available from early March, a small number of doses will be imported from overseas but the bulk will be produced in CSL's Melbourne laboratories at the rate of one million doses per week.
There is not a lot of data showing how well the AstraZeneca vaccine works in the elderly but the TGA said the decision on whether to give it to Australians aged over 65 "should be decided on a case-by-case basis with consideration of age and comorbidities".
Later this year a third vaccine produced by Novavax is expected to become available.
Most people will get their vaccination from their general practitioner and, later, from pharmacists who have sought registration with the federal government to roll out the vaccine.
The vaccination program will be rolled out in five phases.
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Each of the three vaccines purchased for Australia require two jabs several weeks apart to be fully effective but clinical trials show even a single dose will provide some protection against COVID-19.
Three weeks after a single dose, the AstraZeneca vaccine provides 76 per cent protection against severe disease, Pfizer's vaccine is 52 per cent effective at preventing illness 12 days after the first shot.
New research shows the AstraZeneca vaccine works better if there is a three-month time lag between doses but the TGA has ruled if you are travelling, scheduled for surgery, or having chemotherapy you can have the second dose four weeks after the first. It is important to receive two jabs of the same brand of vaccine, although trials are under way in the UK to see if mixing and matching vaccine types works better to protect against the virus.
A record of a person's vaccination will be included in the Australia Immunisation Register and can be accessed from the myGov website. A paper vaccination record will be available on request from your vaccine provider or Services Australia.
The batch number of the vaccine you receive will be recorded and the medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will be closely monitoring any adverse reactions.
According to clinical trial results the Pfizer vaccine has the highest efficacy rate - 95 per cent - in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, compared to Novavax's 89 per cent and AstraZeneca's 82 per cent efficacy when two doses are given three months apart.
Several new more infectious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have emerged and there is evidence the vaccines do not work as well against these.
Recently the South African government stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine after the company revealed it did not work well against the new variant in that country. AstraZeneca has also reported it is only 75 per cent effective against the UK variant.
Novavax is 60 per cent effective against the South African variant and 86 per cent effective against the UK variant. However, University of Sydney immunisation expert Professor Robert Booy said the South African research had not been peer-reviewed, included only 2000 people and did not mean the vaccine would not prevent severe disease.
Research has shown AstraZeneca's vaccine reduced transmission of the virus by 67 per cent. There is no evidence yet on whether Pfizer or Novavax can prevent transmission of the disease.
CSIRO health director Dr Rob Grenfell said more important than the efficacy rate is whether the vaccine prevents people getting severe COVID-19 and dying, and all three vaccines scored well on this front.
AstraZeneca reports that 100 per cent of people who receive its vaccine are protected from hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.
"What we are trying to do with the first wave of immunisation against this pandemic is to stop people getting seriously ill, hospitalised, or dying," Dr Grenfell said. "And that as a measure from both AstraZeneca and Pfizer is a resoundingly strong result, that's the important result."
Originally published as COVID vaccine calculator: See when you'll get your jab