COVIDSafe community messaging on vaccines

By Our Reporter
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS Temple) vaccination clinic

In its bid to educate multicultural and CALD communities on the COVID-19 vaccination program and help spread awareness, the Multicultural Affairs, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing states that COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing are free for everyone. You do not need insurance, or a visa, or Medicare card to get it.

In its briefing to the multicultural media on 1 September, Professor Benjamin Cowie, an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist, with appointments at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Doherty Institute, helps explain the various vaccination programs and how communities can come together to minimise risks and help curb the spread of this virus.


Under 60 years
How does the Pfizer vaccine work?
Source: ‘Shareable Resource: How Do Mrna And Viral Vector Vaccines Work? – The Loop’ (The Loop, 2021) accessed 29 July 2021.

Pfizer vaccine preferred People aged under 60 years who have had the first dose AstraZeneca vaccine can receive second dose. People aged 18 to 59 years who choose to receive AstraZeneca following individual riskbenefit consideration and informed consent discussion.

60 years and over

Eligible to receive AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine Eligible for second dose of Pfizer vaccine if already received first dose. Determined by Victorian Specialist Immunisation Service should an individuals’ doctor recommend AZ not used. Only referrals by a clinician are accepted and processed (no self-referrals).



Provisional determination granted in Australia (not yet approved for use but under review by TGA)

  • Type of vaccine – Protein based
  • Requires two doses
  • If approved, 51 million doses are anticipated in the second half of 2021
  • Enough doses to cover Australia’s population.

Approved for use by TGA

  • Type of vaccine – mRNA
  • Requires two doses four weeks apart
  • Moderna will supply 25 million doses from late 2021
  • 10 million doses of their current vaccine, and
  • 15 million doses of booster or variantspecific versions of the vaccine.


How does the AstraZeneca vaccine work?
Source: ‘Shareable Resource: How Do Mrna And Viral Vector Vaccines Work? – The Loop’ (The Loop, 2021) accessed 29 July 2021.
  • People who have had their first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects are encouraged to have their second dose as planned
  • This includes adults under 60 years of age
  • ATAGI advise that each person needs to make an informed decision, based on an understanding of the risks and benefits
  • In an outbreak, ATAGI recommends a gap of 4 to 8 weeks between first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Where outbreaks are not a threat, people should continue getting second doses 4 to 12 weeks after the first dose
  • The minimum interval for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has changed to six weeks between first dose and second dose at Victorian state-run vaccination clinics.


  • If you aren’t eligible for Medicare, registering for an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) is preferred.
  • An IHI also allows you to have proof of your COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Once you have an IHI, you can be vaccinated, providing you meet the current eligibility criteria.
  • You will be able to receive the vaccine from a state vaccination clinic (not a general practice clinic).


The Delta variant has been found to have an increased transmissibility and secondary attack rate.

  • There is an increased risk of hospitalisation associated with the variant.
  • The risk of reinfection is increased due to a reduction of neutralising activity reported.
  • Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines protect against severe disease and hospitalisation, particularly after receiving both doses of vaccines.

AstraZeneca has been associated with causing blood clots, this is a very rare side effect known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). It is different from general clotting disorders such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). TTS can occur at different parts of the body, including the brain and the abdomen. The low level of blood platelets can potentially cause bleeding. The symptoms mostly start between 4 and 20 days after vaccination and can include:

  • a severe persistent headache with additional features: – does not improve with simple painkillers – may be worse when lying down – may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain
  • swelling in your leg
  • persistent abdominal (belly) pain
  • neurological symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty with speech, drowsiness or seizures
  • tiny blood spots under the skin away from the site of injection.
  • shortness of breath

People should go to hospital if they experience symptoms. TTS can be treated effectively. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves patient outcomes.


There is a very rare risk of serious side effects that impact your heart – these conditions are called myocarditis or pericarditis and can occur after receiving a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is the inflammation of the thin sac that surrounds the heart. Most people who have experienced these heart conditions following vaccination with Pfizer have required hospitalisation however they have responded well to standard treatment. Patients have recovered quickly with treatment. After your Pfizer vaccine you need to watch for the following symptoms in the days (typically 1-5 days) following your vaccine:

  • chest pain, pressure or discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or ‘fluttering’
  • pain with breathing
  • fainting

If you experience these symptoms you should immediately seek medical attention. You need to tell the doctor you see that you have recently had a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. When diagnosed early there are effective treatments available and many people recover without long term impacts.


Planning pregnancy: No evidence of increased risk of pregnancy complications in women who become pregnant after vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines have no effect on fertility.

Breastfeeding: It is safe to continue breastfeeding before or after COVID-19 vaccination. No evidence of any side effects or any harm to the woman or her infant.

Currently pregnant: Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and ATAGI recommend that pregnant women are routinely offered Pfizer vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. There are no safety concerns for the woman or her baby and helps protect against the risk of COVID-19 infection to protect both the woman and her baby.

Pregnancy and vaccination

Pregnant women should be routinely offered Pfizer at any stage of pregnancy.

  • Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.
  • Real-world evidence has shown that Pfizer is safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding women.
  • Women who received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and are pregnant can receive a second dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, although Pfizer vaccine is preferred.
  • COVID-19 vaccination may provide indirect protection to babies by transferring antibodies through the placenta (for pregnant women) or through breastmilk (for breastfeeding women).


  • COVID-19 vaccines are Halal (Australian Fatwa Council)
  • COVID-19 vaccination supported by a huge range of faiths and religious leaders globally
  • COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any human or animal tissue or cells derived from human or animal tissue


  • Vaccine safety is constantly being monitored
  • Talk to your GP or trusted health professional if you have personal questions
  • Information about pandemic conditions may continue to change
  • Media headlines may be misleading.

For translated vaccine information from the Australian Government visit COVID-19 vaccine information in your language.

(Source: Multicultural Affairs, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, Department of Health)

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