Got questions about vaccines? It's normal to want to know more, and we'd like to help you understand as much as possible about the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. If you would like a particular question address, email email@example.com.
What vaccines has Australia ordered so far and which one will our mob get?
Australians can get three different vaccines if the independent Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) tells the government that they are safe and effective. The TGA is one of the best regulatory bodies in the world, and we can trust their decisions.
The TGA has so far approved two of the three vaccines. The first one approved was the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for people over 16 years of age. This has now arrived, but there is limited supply.
The government has just announced approval of the second vaccine, Astra Zeneca/Oxford. This is the vaccine we expect most Australians, including our mob, will be offered. Most of it will be made here in Australia.
The third vaccine, Novavax, is not expected to get approval until at least May.
Some people will be vaccinated very soon. Those people are in Phase 1A of the rollout.
Phase 1A is about protecting the most high-risk and most vulnerable people of our community.
They're the people who are most likely to be exposed to COVID-19 through their work, or the people who are most likely to get severely sick and die from COVID-19. People in Phase 1A will receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Phase 1A includes:
- Quarantine workers and border control workers – including airport arrival workers;
- Hospital and health care workers in high-risk environments;
- Aged care residents and staff; and
- Disability care residents and staff
Phase 1B is the next group to be vaccinated. Aboriginal people over 18 will be in this group. It will also include other health workers, older and vulnerable people and high-risk workers.
This phase will start when the AstraZeneca vaccine is available. We expect this will happen by April.
Is the Astra Zeneca vaccine safe, especially for Aboriginal people?
There are no safety concerns with this vaccine, which is why the TGA approved it for use.
The TGA independently checks all the vaccine trial results and, after ordering an approved vaccine, also does random checks of vaccine batches to make sure that the ingredients are ok.
There is no evidence to show that COVID-19 vaccines are less safe for Aboriginal people than for non-Aboriginal people.
Some vaccines have already been given to many indigenous people in the US and Canada and appear to be just as safe and effective as they were for non-indigenous people.
But this does not include the Astra Zeneca vaccine. More data on this will be available soon.
We are continually talking to government about vaccines and will continue to share new information.
What about side effects?
You may feel a little bit unwell after having the vaccine, especially after the second dose.
Most side effects last no more than a couple of days and you will recover without any problems.
There are also no problems with the vaccines interacting with other medications you may be taking.
There is a very small risk, as with all vaccinations, of having an allergic reaction. Safety measures are always taken so that such reactions can be treated immediately.
Is the Astra Zeneca vaccine effective, especially for Aboriginal people?
The TGA has determined that this vaccine is effective for people over 18. However, for people over 65 they have decided that it is effective based on the immune response in the studies. More data needs to be collected to confirm this over time. Your doctor will talk to you about whether this is the right vaccine for you at this time.
It is very likely that this vaccine will stop people getting very sick and dying, like the other COVID-19 vaccines Australia has ordered.
We think it does that by turning the disease into such a mild sickness that you don’t feel it, or that just feels like a common cold. It may not stop you getting the virus, but if you do you will be less likely to spread it and very unlikely to get really sick.
We expect that if lots of people get vaccinated we can significantly or completely stop the spread of the virus. We can then get back to normal without border controls, quarantine and other restrictive measures.
There is no evidence to show that COVID-19 vaccines are less effective for Aboriginal people than for non-Aboriginal people.
But to make sure, there will be a study with Aboriginal Territorians to check if it works just as well.
Does the Astra Zeneca vaccine work on different types of the virus?
There are now many variants (or types) of the COVID-19 virus. This includes the South African, UK and Brazilian variants.
It is likely that the vaccine is not as effective in stopping people from getting these variants. But it seems that it is still effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
This is because the immune response needed to stop infection is different to the immune response needed to prevent sever disease.
More information is coming in all the time and we will let you know what we find out.
What about the Pfizer vaccine?
The Pfizer vaccine is harder to transport to remote areas because it has to be kept much colder than would be possible in a normal freezer.
However, if it is decided to offer the Pfizer vaccine to Aboriginal people in remote areas these transport issues can and will be addressed.
Do I have to get vaccinated?
No, it’s voluntary.
Getting vaccinated is a very important step in stopping the pandemic and the more people that are vaccinated the safer we all will be.
We hope that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they are able to.
This is what we have been working towards since the start of the pandemic. It will help us beat the virus.
Will life go back to normal after most people in Australia have the vaccination?
For most people, life will return to being more normal.
Some restrictions might stay in place until vaccines stop the spread of the virus around the world. This could take many years.
Infection rates are much higher overseas and new variants of the virus can easily come into Australia if governments open borders too soon.
We also don’t know enough yet about how long vaccines will protect people against getting seriously sick. Booster (extra) vaccine jabs might be needed in the future.
We will continue to advocate strongly for the protection of our mob.
Until the virus has been stopped everywhere, we need to keep doing everything we have learned about good hygiene and physical distancing.
What should I do now?
- Make sure your contact details are up to date at your local clinic.
- Get your COVID-19 information from the NT Government, the Australian Government, or medical services like Congress.
- Start talking with friends and family about getting vaccinated and protecting yourself and your mob.
- If you have questions, speak to your local clinic.
This Q & A is a collaboration with Central Land Council.