COVID-19 Vaccine and anti-viral medication

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for everyone 5 years and older. Most cases of COVID-19 are mild and are manageable at home. Some people who are at higher risk may need specific antiviral treatments prescribed by a doctor.

Sinnamon Park Medical Centre offers COVID-19 vaccinations to new and current patients. Our independent GPs can also discuss your need or eligibility for anti-viral medication and give you a prescription if needed.

Of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia, our practice currently provides the Pfizer (Comirnaty) bivalent vaccine. This is subject to change.

All doctors practicing from our rooms and any of our practice nurses that administer the Pfizer vaccine are specifically trained to do so and are up to date with current guidelines.

If you have any questions about COVID-19, please speak to your doctor.

If you would like to make a booking to receive a COVID vaccine, please contact reception.

Please be aware that you will be asked to remain at the practice for 15 minutes after receiving your COVID vaccine for monitoring and safety.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccination in Australia, visit: https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/covid-19-vaccines

For more information about eligibility for antiviral treatment, speak to your doctor or visit: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/treatments/eligibility

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID Vaccines:

What are the benefits of receiving the Pfizer vaccine?

The benefits of vaccination with Pfizer greatly outweigh the risk of side effects.

A very large clinical trial showed the Pfizer COVID vaccine is effective in preventing and protecting against serious illness from COVID-19 in people aged 12 years and older. People who had 2 doses of Pfizer were about 95% less likely to get ill from COVID-19 than people who did not get the vaccine. It was equally effective in people over the age of 65 years, as well as people with some stable pre-existing medical conditions.

What is in the Pfizer vaccine, and can it give me COVID-19?

Pfizer is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. This type of vaccine uses a genetic code called RNA to make your body’s cells produce the coronavirus’ specific spike protein.

Your immune system cells then recognise the spike protein as a threat and begin building an immune response against it. The RNA from the vaccine does not change your DNA in any way, and your body quickly breaks it down.

Pfizer does not contain any live virus and it cannot give you COVID-19.

What are the current primary vaccination course recommendations?

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 5 years or older to protect against COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for children aged 6 months to under 5 years with severe immunocompromise, disability, and those who have complex and/or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

For most people, a primary vaccination course consists of 2 doses.

A third primary dose is recommended for people aged 6 months or older with severe immunocompromise.

What are the 2023 Booster dose recommendations?

(a) ATAGI recommends a 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for adults in the following groups, if their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection (whichever is the most recent) was 6 months ago or longer, and regardless of the number of prior doses received:

  • All adults aged 65 years and over.
  • Adults aged 18-64 years who have medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs.

(b) ATAGI advises the following groups should consider a 2023 booster dose if their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection (whichever is the most recent) was 6 months ago or longer, and regardless of the number of prior doses received, based on an individual risk benefit assessment with their immunisation provider.

  • All Adults aged 18-64 years without risk factors for severe COVID-19.
  • Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years who have medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs.

(c) ATAGI advises that a booster dose is not recommended at this time for children and adolescents aged under the age of 18 who do not have any risk factors for severe COVID-19.

(d) Regarding vaccine choice, all currently available COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to provide benefit as a booster dose, however bivalent mRNA booster vaccines are preferred over other vaccines.

These include:

Pfizer Original/Omicron BA.4/5, as well as Pfizer Original/Omicron BA.1 or Moderna Original/Omicron BA.1.

(e) COVID-19 vaccine can be co-administered with influenza and other vaccines.

(f) Administration of a 2023 COVID-19 booster dose should aim to occur prior to June 2023 and at a time of 6 months or greater following the most recent COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection.

(g) Ongoing surveillance of COVID-19 infection rates and clinical outcomes, new variants, and vaccine effectiveness will inform future recommendations for additional booster doses.

What is the Pfizer bivalent COVID-19 vaccine?

On 28 October, the TGA provisionally approved Pfizer’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for use as a booster dose in adults 18 years and over.

ATAGI has provided a recommendation that the Pfizer bivalent vaccine can be used as an alternative vaccine for any booster dose in people aged 18 years or older, according to the current ATAGI recommendations for booster doses.

The Pfizer bivalent COVID-19 vaccine targets the original 2020 strain and the Omicron variant BA.1.

Compared to the original vaccines, ATAGI found it triggers a modest improvement in the immune response against both strains. However, both the bivalent and original vaccines provide significant protection from severe disease against Omicron subvariant infections.

What are the recommendations if I have a weakened or compromised immune system?

COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for people who are immunocompromised because of the increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19.

Vaccinated immunocompromised people should also continue to take additional protective measures against COVID-19.

Additional primary dose if immunocompromised

A third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all people aged 6 months or older with severe immunocompromise who are receiving a 2-dose primary course. The third dose should be given from 2 months after the second vaccine dose. Severely immunocompromised children who receive the 3-dose primary schedule of the Pfizer 6 months to 4 years formulation (maroon cap) do not require a fourth primary dose.

The third dose is intended to address the risk of lowered response or non-response to the standard 2-dose schedule.

An age-appropriate formulation of the Pfizer original formulation or Novavax (for people aged ≥ 12 years) is recommended for the third dose. Most studies of third doses of COVID-19 vaccine in immunocompromised people have used mRNA vaccines.

There is very limited evidence of the efficacy of Novavax in immunocompromised people.

What are the recommendations for children and adolescents?

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for:

  • all children and adolescents aged ≥5 years.
  • children aged 6 months to <5 years who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.
    The dose and concentration vary between the different age-specific COVID-19 vaccine formulations. Children should be given a formulation that is registered for their age.

Children aged 6 months to <5 years.

Two vaccines are available for children aged 6 months to < 5 years:

  • Moderna 6 months to 5 years formulation (blue cap/purple stripe) is given as a 2-dose primary schedule.
  • Pfizer 6 months to 4 years formulation (maroon cap) is given in a 3-dose primary schedule.

ATAGI recommends COVID-19 vaccination for children in this age group who are at greatest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. This includes those with the following or similar conditions:

  • severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, or on immunosuppressive treatments as listed in the ATAGI advice on third primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.
  • bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy
  • complex congenital cardiac disease
  • structural airway anomalies or chronic lung disease
  • type 1 diabetes mellitus
  • chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions
  • a disability with significant or complex health needs, such as severe cerebral palsy or Down syndrome (trisomy 21).

ATAGI does not currently recommend COVID-19 vaccination for children in this age group who are not in the listed high-risk categories for severe COVID-19.

Children aged 5 to 11 years.

The following vaccines are available for children in this age group:

  • Pfizer 5 to 11 years formulation (orange cap).
  • Moderna 6 months to 5 years formulation (blue cap/purple stripe) is available for children aged 5 years and is given as a 2-dose primary schedule.

It is preferable to complete the primary course with the same brand of vaccine, rather than a different brand. However, children should receive the appropriate formulation and dose of vaccine according to their age on the day of vaccination.

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

  • Pfizer original ≥12 years formulation (purple cap) and Novavax are registered for use in people aged 12 years or older.

There are limited data on the safety and immunogenicity of Novavax compared with Pfizer original ≥12 years formulation (purple cap).

ATAGI prefers bivalent formulations for booster doses for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years:

  • Pfizer bivalent original/Omicron BA.4/5 ≥12 years formulation (grey cap)
  • Moderna bivalent original/Omicron BA.4/5 ≥12 years formulation (pre-filled syringe).

What are the recommendations for pregnancy, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy?

Pregnant women are recommended to receive a primary course of COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer original ≥12 years formulation (purple cap) is the recommended vaccine for a primary course in pregnant women.

This is based on a large body of evidence supporting the safety of mRNA vaccines in pregnancy. Data is still very limited on the safety of Novavax in pregnancy. However, people who cannot access Pfizer can consider vaccination with Novavax if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Pregnant women who have already received a primary course should discuss with their doctor whether a booster dose is required during their pregnancy. Pregnancy is not currently considered a risk factor for severe illness in a woman who has already completed a primary course and booster and who does not have any medical risk conditions. The risk of severe disease during the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant period is already low in pregnant women who have received 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the recommendations if I have had a past COVID-19 infection?

All people are recommended to defer COVID-19 vaccination for 6 months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

There are no safety concerns for people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine who may have had an undetected COVID-19 infection within the past 6 months.

Vaccination is likely to enhance the protection induced by infection. The interval between infection and vaccination enhances the protection from vaccination by further boosting the immune response, including immune memory response, generated following infection.

Vaccination may occur earlier than the recommended 6-month interval in exceptional circumstances, such as before starting an immunosuppressant, before overseas travel or if someone cannot reschedule vaccination easily.

For people who have been infected and are required to receive COVID-19 vaccination, a temporary medical exemption may be applicable. People should speak with their doctor about what is best for them. We will usually only provide temporary exemptions for a period of up to 6 months after infection. This is due to the increased risk of reinfection after this time.

People who were previously vaccinated within 6 months of a confirmed COVID infection do not need to repeat any doses.

People who have been infected with COVID can receive other (non-COVID) vaccines without any minimum interval. As with any vaccine, vaccination should be deferred in people who are acutely unwell (such as with an acute febrile or systemic illness).

Can I receive the COVID and influenza (flu) vaccines together? Are there timing requirements for other vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines can be given on the same day with influenza and other vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered in children aged 6 months to <5 years if separation of vaccines would be logistically challenging. However, where possible, it is preferable to separate administration of age-appropriate COVID-19 vaccines from other vaccines by 7 to 14 days as may lead to higher rates of adverse events, including fever.

For people aged 5 years and older, COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered with an influenza vaccine. Studies demonstrate the safety and immunogenicity of co-administration of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines can also be co-administered with other vaccines if required. This includes routine childhood and adolescent vaccines. The benefits of ensuring timely vaccination and maintaining high vaccine uptake outweigh any potential risks associated with immunogenicity, local adverse reactions, or fever.

There is the potential for an increase in mild to moderate adverse events when more than one vaccine is given at the same time. Co-administration or near administration (e.g., within days) with another vaccine may also make it difficult to attribute potential adverse events.

Can I take paracetamol or ibuprofen before or after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?

Using paracetamol or ibuprofen before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be taken after vaccination if needed to manage vaccine-related side effects such as fever and muscle pain.

Are there reasons why I can't receive a COVID-19 (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccination?

A contraindication (exclusion for use) to one mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should be considered a contraindication to other COVID-19 vaccines made with the same vaccine platform. For example, a person who is contraindicated for any Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine would also be contraindicated for any Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Contraindications to original and bivalent formulations of both Pfizer and Moderna are:

  • anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna)
  • anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to any component of the vaccine, including polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • any other serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of Pfizer or Moderna (and without another cause identified) that has been:
  • reported to state adverse event reporting programs and/or the TGA and
  • has been determined following review by, and/or on the opinion of, an experienced immunisation provider/medical specialist to be a contraindication to future doses, considering whether repeat vaccine doses would be associated with a risk of recurrence of the serious adverse event.

What are the common side effects of receiving a Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine?

The Pfizer is a very safe vaccine. It has been given to millions of people around the world.

As with any vaccine, you may have some temporary side effects after receiving Pfizer. This shows your immune system is working.

Common side effects after Pfizer include:

  • injection site pain or swelling
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fever and chills.

Less common side effects after the Pfizer vaccine include:

  • redness or swelling at the injection site.
  • nausea
  • enlarged lymph nodes.
  • feeling unwell
  • pain in arm or leg
  • insomnia

Most side effects are mild and go away within 1 to 2 days. Data shows that side effects are more common after the second dose.

What are the rare side effects of the Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine?

Rare side effects after the Pfizer vaccine are severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), myocarditis and pericarditis.

Please refer to Pfizer (Comirnaty) Consumer Medical Information for more information- https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/cmi-comirnaty-bnt162b2-mrna.pdf

What is the risk of developing myocarditis or pericarditis from the Pfizer vaccine?

Myocarditis or pericarditis

In rare cases, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) can develop after vaccination with Pfizer.

Most cases have mild symptoms and recover well.

The TGA reports that these rare effects on the heart typically occur:

  • within 1 to 5 days of vaccination
  • predominantly after the second dose
  • more often in men aged under 40 but can occur in any gender, at any age, and after any dose.

Contact a doctor or go to hospital immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms after a Pfizer vaccination:

  • chest pain
  • pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • irregular, skipped heartbeats or ‘fluttering’.
  • fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • pain when breathing.

The risk of developing myocarditis or pericarditis is very low.

In the US, reported rates in males were 10 cases per million after first doses, and 67 cases per million after second doses. The TGA is monitoring the risk in the Australian population.

The risk in children aged 5 to 11 years is not yet known. The clinical trial in children aged 5 to 11 years did not have enough participants to assess rates of myocarditis or pericarditis following the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, but no specific safety concerns have been identified so far from millions of doses of this vaccine administered overseas to children aged 5 to 11 years. The benefits of vaccination outweigh this very rare risk, and vaccination is still recommended for all eligible age groups. 

For more guidance on myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination please speak to your doctor and refer to: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/09/covid-19-vaccination-guidance-on-myocarditis-and-pericarditis-after-covid-19-vaccines_0.pdf

How common is anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to a COVID-19 vaccine?

Anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccines is rare and occurs at a similar rate to other common vaccines. In a study that included original formulations of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines the overall rate of anaphylaxis was around 10 per million doses. The rate of anaphylaxis after Novavax is not yet known.

COVID-19 ANTIVIRAL MEDICATION:

What are antivirals medicines and how do they work for COVID-19 infection?

Antivirals are medicines that help stop a virus infecting healthy cells or multiplying in the body.

There are antivirals available that work against COVID-19 and they work best when taken as soon as possible.

COVID-19 antivirals do not work against other viruses like the flu. There are different antivirals for the flu.

Antiviral medicines target the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 to prevent it infecting healthy cells in your body and multiplying. This helps stop the spread of the virus inside your body and helps your immune system to fight off the infection.

By reducing how severe the illness is, you are less likely to:

  • go to hospital
  • develop breathing difficulties
  • need assistance with oxygen or intensive care treatment, or
  • die from COVID-19.

Antivirals are not a substitute for vaccination. Vaccination is still the best protection against COVID-19.

What antivirals are available for COVID-19 infection?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved 2 oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19 in Australia.

They are:

How do I take antivirals?

COVID-19 antivirals work best when taken as soon as possible, usually within 5 days from when your symptoms start.

Most people who are eligible will be prescribed oral antivirals, which come in tablet or capsule form to be taken by the mouth. This means you can take these medicines at home and don’t need to go to hospital for treatment.

There are other treatment options available including antiviral injections. Your doctor will discuss the best option for you and provide information on how to best use the antiviral prescribed.

Am I eligible to receive an antiviral medicine?

You can only be prescribed antiviral medicines by a doctor if you test positive to COVID-19 through a PCR (nose and throat swab) or rapid antigen test (RAT) and meet the eligibility criteria.

You can find out if you are eligible for antiviral medicines on the Department of Health website (https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/treatments/eligibility)

Some people who are at higher risk of severe illness who test positive to COVID-19 may still be able to obtain antiviral medicines even if they do not meet the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) criteria (https://www.pbs.gov.au/info/news/2022/11/expanded-access-to-covid-19-oral-treatments).

There are also age and disease criteria that you must meet to be eligible to receive a PBS subsidised antiviral medication for COVID-19.

Your doctor will determine your eligibility to receive a COVID-19 antiviral medication. You can also use the COVID-19 Symptom and Antiviral Eligibility Checker for guidance (https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/en/basic-details).

How do I access antiviral medication for COVID-19?

Call the practice immediately to discuss antivirals with a doctor (telehealth preferable). Antivirals work best when taken as soon as possible, usually within 5 days from when your symptoms start.

If your doctor says you are eligible for antivirals, they can send you a prescription (online or paper copy). It’s recommended to ask your pharmacy to arrange home delivery for your medication or ask someone to collect it on your behalf.

My doctor said that I am not eligible for an antiviral. Why is this?

Antivirals can only be used in the early stages of infection and are not suitable for everyone. There are also age and disease criteria that you must meet to be eligible to receive a PBS subsidised antiviral medication for COVID-19.

Most people can manage COVID-19 safely at home without needing antivirals. Antivirals may help people who are at higher risk of developing severe illness, depending on their circumstances.

Are there any side effect of antiviral medication?

All medicines can potentially have side effects, but most will disappear with time or when you stop treatment.

You can have different side effects from antivirals based on which medicine your doctor has prescribed for you. The medicine information sheets discuss side effects:

Your doctor will discuss potential side effects of antiviral medication and determine if they are safe for you to use based on your individual medical history.

Are there any reasons why I should not take antiviral medication?

Some people should not take any COVID-19 antiviral medicines. Some people can only take 1 type of antiviral medicine and not the other.

Importantly, there are also several drug interactions that can occur with antiviral medicines for COVID-19.

Your doctor will decide if an antiviral medicine is safe for you to take based on your individual medical history.

The medicine information sheets also provide further information:

Disclaimer:

Information about COVID-19 vaccines/vaccination/ vaccination clinics is subject to change.

The information provided in the FAQ is based on the best current knowledge at the time of compiling and will be regularly updated as new information is received.

The information provided in the FAQ is not intended to be a substitute for a detailed discussion of COVID-19 vaccination related issues with your doctor or medical staff.

The information contained in the Q&A is not to be copied without the express permission of SPMC directors and management.

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