Blog: Frequently asked questions about Queensland COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Queensland’s vaccine rollout for members of the general population will commence at the end of March.

Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young confirmed the dates at a multicultural leaders forum hosted by the Refugee Health Network Queensland on 3 February. Dr Young was the key speaker.

At the forum, which focussed on Queensland’s vaccine rollout, Dr Young commended Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities for their success at preventing COVID-19. Dr Young also praised the scientists who developed the vaccines: “It’s so exciting. It’s an absolute credit to the scientists across the world and the work that they have done so rapidly, but still so safely and so effectively to develop a large range of very, very good vaccines. We’re so fortunate to be living in this era.”

Around 100 people attended the event. Below are some of the questions put to Dr Young about Queensland’s vaccination rollout. You can watch the forum here.

What are the vaccines?

There will be two public vaccines available in Queensland: Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be available privately.

Australia will import twenty million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Because this vaccine has complex storage requirements, it will be distributed from six hubs only in Queensland.

AstraZeneca will initially be imported, but it will later be made in Australia. As it can be stored like other vaccines, it will be the most widely distributed vaccine in Queensland.

Who needs to get vaccinated?

With the exception of pregnant and breastfeeding women, it is highly recommended that all adults 16 years and older get vaccinated. This includes people who have had COVID-19 already, because we do not know how long immunity lasts after you have had the illness.

Vaccinations are not mandatory however, so you can choose whether or not you wish to be vaccinated.

How will I know when to get vaccinated?

The Pfizer vaccine will be given to priority groups from the end of February. These groups are:

  • Priority group one: people who work in quarantine hotels, people who work at the border and health care workers.
  • Priority group two: residents of and workers in aged care and disability care facilities.
  • Priority group three: includes older people, people with significant chronic disease and First Nations people.

AstraZeneca will be rolled out to the general public from the end of March/early April. There will be an Australia-wide government communications campaign about the vaccinations, so everyone knows when they can get the vaccine. It is planned that information about the vaccines will be translated into 32 languages so everyone can access it.

It is important to get the vaccine as soon as you can, and the Chief Health Officer recommends that you take the first vaccine offered to you.

Where can I get the vaccine?

You can get the vaccine from your pharmacist or GP. You can either book your vaccination online, by phone, or in person at your GP or pharmacy.

Queensland Health is currently looking at whether people can get vaccinated in their community facilities. For instance, following the UK model where people are being vaccinated in mosques, cathedrals and different places of worship.

Do I have to get the vaccine?

No – the vaccine is not mandatory. However, Dr Young highly recommends that you choose to be vaccinated to protect yourself against contracting COVID-19. You can not rely on herd immunity to protect you, unlike with other diseases such as the measles.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. To be administered, the vaccines have to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). TGA has extremely stringent testing processes, so any vaccine approved by them is absolutely safe. Both the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccines are provisionally TGA approved in Australia for two years.

However, there are some groups who have not been tested or have had an adverse reaction to the vaccine. These are:

  • Pregnant women: The vaccines have NOT been tested on pregnant women and it is not known if they are safe for this group. If you are pregnant, you should not get the vaccine unless you belong to a really high-risk health group (diabetes, those receiving a solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, immuno-suppression, those receiving dialysis, those with congenital or heart disease ). You should also talk to your doctor before getting the vaccine if you are breastfeeding or want to fall pregnant. More information for pregnant and breastfeeding women is available here.
  • People who have had allergic reactions to other vaccines. A very small number of people with existing severe allergies have had an anaphylactic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have allergies, talk to your GP before getting the vaccine.

Is the vaccine free?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccination will be free for all Medicare-eligible Australians and all visa-holders, excluding visa sub-classes 771 (Transit), 600 (Tourist stream), 651 (eVisitor) and 601 (Electronic Travel Authority). This includes refugees, asylum seekers, temp, work and student visa holders.
GPs and pharmacies will not be able to vaccinate people without evidence of their Medicare coverage, but Queensland Health facilities and GP Respiratory Clinics will.

What is the process of getting the vaccine?

You must get two shots of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart.

The AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses between four and twelve weeks apart. It is recommended that you wait twelve weeks between shots, but if that is not possible (for instance, because of cancer treatment) you can get the shots four weeks apart.

Can the vaccine be taken with the flu vaccine?

Yes. The flu vaccine can be taken at a minimum two weeks after the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the vaccine effective against all variants?

So far it looks like the vaccine is effective against B117, the UK variant. It may be less effective against other variants. Vaccines will evolve to make them more effective against new variants.

Because it is not yet known how effective the vaccination will be against all variants, the new normal must be maintained: physical distancing, wearing a mask when you can not physically distance, good hand hygiene and most importantly of all staying at home if you are sick.

How can we counter misinformation from anti-vaxxers?

Make sure you source legitimate information from government websites, not from Facebook.

When will Australia’s borders be open?

There are a range of considerations affecting when Australian international borders will be open. It is unlikely the international border will be open before the end of the year or that Australian citizens will be given general permission to leave Australia before the end of the year. The plan is that when a large portion of the Australian population is vaccinated, Australia will open its borders, but there are many variants affecting this decision including how effective international vaccinations are, what COVID-19 variants are circulating and how effective the vaccines are against those, and what therapeutic options are available for treatment.

Additional resources:

To view the vaccination rollout schedule and when the vaccine may become available to you, please visit this Queensland Government website.