As Australia’s vaccination programme commences, two ends of a spectrum exist: individuals willing to be vaccinated and individuals who are not. For the latter, the uncertainty tied to COVID-19 vaccine side effects serves as a key reason.
According to a survey by The Sydney Morning Herald, hesitance stems from the lack of information about each vaccine, extreme concern on short and long-term side effects, and the lack of fear for the virus itself.
With that, read on to know more about the available and soon-to-be available COVID-19 vaccines.
Which COVID-19 Vaccines are Available in Australia?
In 2020, over nine manufacturers displayed initiatives to mass-produce vaccines in order to battle our COVID-19 war. And some of the powerhouse pharmaceutical companies partnered with one another to manufacture a leading vaccine.
Currently, Australia utilises the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines to vaccinate their eligible individuals. Although, individuals can expect to receive COVID-19 vaccines from other manufacturers who have and will apply for provisional determination and provisional registration.
COVID-19 Vaccines: Provisional Determinations & Registrations
In order for a manufacturer to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, they must undergo a selection process.
First, the pharmaceutical company must apply for provisional determination with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). After being granted such, they can now apply for provisional registration with the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
As of June 2021, here are the sponsors granted with provisional determinations by the TGA:
- Moderna Australia Pty Ltd for the Moderna
- Biocelect Pty Ltd for Novavax
And, here are the sponsors with provisional registrations:
- Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd for COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen
- Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd for COMIRNATY – BNT162b2 [mRNA]
- AstraZeneca Pty Ltd for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects & Efficacy
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 as a pandemic. Yet, pharmaceutical companies spearheaded research and development — creating a vaccine in under a year.
Over time, the efficacy and side effects varied from nation to nation. As global vaccination rates increase, a well-rounded average of efficacy and accounts of side effects contribute to research and public information. To proceed, it is important to note that there are currently three variants: Alpha (first detected in the UK), Beta (first detected in South Africa), and Delta (first detected in India).
After full vaccination or two doses, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine displays 95% efficacy for individuals without a previous COVID-19 infection. For the Alpha and Beta Variants, the protection from severe cases or death remained 95% effective. However, the COVID-19 vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation and 88% effective against symptomatic infections.
On the other hand, the common side effects are headache, fatigue, chills, pain, and swelling on the injection site.
Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects & Efficacy
After receiving two doses, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine holds 76% efficacy against symptomatic infections and 100% efficacy against severe cases. Although, these figures adjust for individuals over 65 years old with 85% efficacy against COVID-19 infections.
For the variants, statistics are not concrete yet but, some findings state 74.6% efficacy against the Alpha variant. In addition, it is 60% effective against symptomatic Delta infections and 93% effective against hospitalisation.
In general, the most common side effects are pain, redness, swelling or bruising on injection site, tenderness, warmth, and itching.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen
In comparison, the Janssen vaccine is the only one with one dose. Accordingly, the overall efficacy is 72% and 86% effective against severe cases. Unfortunately, there is no available data on the Alpha and Delta variants, though, the COVID-19 vaccine showed 82% efficacy against severe cases of the Beta variant.
With a single dose, the side effects are known to be milder than other vaccines. For instance, the common ones are fever, pain on injection site, muscle pain, fatigue, and headache.
Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects & Efficacy
Unlike the other vaccines, the Novavax has yet to complete its clinical trials. To begin with, it is 100% effective against moderate and severe cases during Phase 3 trials. On the contrary, individuals over 65 years, with a comorbidity or with a previous COVID-19 infection showed 91% efficacy.
Further, the known side effects so far are fatigue, muscle pain, injection site tenderness, and headache.
Lastly, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective in preventing symptomatic cases for those with no COVID-19 history. Although, the efficacy drops to 86.4% for individuals over 65-years old, while its efficacy against variants are yet to be released.
Similar to Pfizer-BioNTech, the most common side effects are headache, fatigue, injection site swelling, chills, and pain.
Why Are COVID-19 Vaccination Programmes Important?
While there is a significant presence of COVID-19 vaccine hesitation, most countries launch campaigns to promote it. Amidst the pandemic, vaccination programmes are the only way towards herd immunity and combatting COVID-19, apart from practising health protocols.
With long-term side effects as a primal concern, individuals should hear out MU Healthcare: “History tells us that severe side effects are extremely rare, and if they if do occur, they usually happen within the first two months.”
Am I Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
To determine your eligibility for a COVID 19 vaccine, please visit our updated list of eligible individuals or complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker of the Australian Department of Health.
In terms of dealing with side effects, you should rest, hydrate, and moderately medicate. For all COVID-19 vaccines, if you develop respiratory side effects, it is best to contact your doctor. If you need help getting touch with a practitioner, please do not hesitate to contact us.