What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

With the slow pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to the disability sector in Australia, Federal and State Governments have announced extra measures to prioritise National Disability Insurance Schemes (NDIS) users. So how do you go about receiving your vaccine and why is it important to do so? Here's what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Key Points

  • NDIS participants aged 12 and over, and carers of NDIS participants of any age are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

  • State and Federal Governments have announced extra measures to prioritise people with disability 

  • Some people with disability are at greater risk of becoming very sick if they catch COVID-19, so getting vaccinated is very important

What's the current situation?

According to the Department of Health figures released last week, only 355 of the more than 22,000 people with disability living in residential settings have been fully vaccinated. On the back of controversy surrounding this delayed rollout, the Victorian Government announced state-based vaccination hubs that would prioritise disability workers and accessibility centres for those living with disability. 

The Federal Government has also moved to accelerate the rollout across the disability sector, with COVID vaccination hubs to prioritise NDIS users. Sites in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia are expected to open this week. The hubs will be available for participants in the NDIS, in phase 1a as well as their primary carers. NDIS workers will also be able to attend sites. 

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds says the hubs would provide safe and accessible places for people with disability to receive the shots. 

"These hubs allow providers, in partnership with the Commonwealth Government and vaccine providers, to ensure some of the most vulnerable Australians and their support workers and carers can be vaccinated faster," Minister Reynolds says.

Sites are set up at Dandenong in Melbourne, on the Central Coast in New South Wales, Medindie in South Australia and Cannington in Perth, Western Australia.

The Federal Government says it is also "working with a number of other providers" and that plans were "well advanced" to open further hubs across the country in the coming weeks.

The plan comes just days after Minister Reynolds announced a $150 support payment to assist people in disability residential accommodation to get vaccinations offsite.

Who can get the vaccine?

In Australia, all vaccines – including the COVID-19 vaccine – are voluntary, which means you can choose whether you would like to have the vaccine or not. Currently, NDIS participants aged 12 years and older, and carers of NDIS participants (of any age) are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you’re unsure on whether you want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you can discuss the benefits and risks with your: 

  • Family

  • Carer

  • Health professional

  • Substitute decision maker

In order to receive the vaccine, you will need to provide informed consent to the person giving you the vaccination and, in some cases, your disability provider. If you don’t receive your vaccine from your regular GP, you may also need to fill out a consent form.

What COVID-19 vaccine will you receive?

Currently, there are two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Australia:

There may be some exceptions depending on where you get your vaccination and your current circumstances. 

Do I need to receive a second dose?

In order for the vaccine to be effective, you need to receive two doses of the vaccine. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer require two doses for the best immunity. AstraZeneca doses can be given 4-12 weeks apart, however the current recommended dose is 12 weeks apart. On the other hand, Pfizer doses are given at least 21 days apart. When it’s your turn to receive the vaccine you will also be able to make a booking for your follow up appointment. This is important as a second exposure to the same vaccine allows the body to respond by creating a stronger immune response to fight the virus.

Where can you get the vaccine?

There are a number of places you can receive your COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you live in a disability group home of two or more people with disability: 

  • You can be vaccinated at home by a vaccination provider organised by the Australian Government 

  • You can receive your vaccine at home by your General Practitioner (GP) 

  • You can go to a vaccination clinic or GP

Your disability service provider can help you arrange your preferred option. To make it easier, the Government has developed a flowchart to help you understand your options. 

If you don’t live in a disability group home and are aged 60 or older, you can receive your vaccination at: 

  • An AstraZeneca vaccination clinic

  • A participating general practice

  • An Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Service

  • A participating pharmacy

If you don’t live in disability accommodation and you're under 60 years old you can be vaccinated at: 

  • A Pfizer vaccination clinic

How do you book a vaccination appointment?

Living in shared residential accommodation

If you live in disability accommodation with two or more people with disability, the Australian Government will contact your disability provider. They will arrange a date and time for a vaccination team to visit your place of residence. 

Living in your own home

If everyone in your household is over 60, your local Primary Health Network will contact your disability provider. Your provider will then arrange a GP to visit your home to give you the vaccine. 

At a vaccination centre 

Across all States and Territories there are many different vaccination hubs where you can go to have your COVID-19 vaccination, however in most cases you need to make an appointment before you go in.

To book an appointment for a vaccination centre, use the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker. If you prefer to book your appointment directly at a vaccination clinic or participating general practice, you can contact them directly about receiving the vaccine. 

You can find out about how to book in for your vaccination appointment by contacting the National Coronavirus and COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline on 1800 020 080. 

Receiving support on your vaccination day

No matter if you are going to a vaccination clinic, GP, pharmacy or receiving the vaccination at home, you can choose if you want someone with you to support this process. This could include: 

  • A family member

  • Carer

  • Friend

  • Support worker

You still need to ensure you all stay COVIDSafe and practise physical distancing and good hygiene after receiving your vaccine. 

Will I notice any side effects?

While there is a likelihood you may experience a side effect to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, most Australians won't experience too many side effects, if at all.

As a person with disability, it is important to talk to your doctor first before getting the vaccine. Depending on your disability, you want to make sure you will be safe when receiving the vaccine and that it won't interact with any medication you are taking.

The side effects you could get from the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be no different from the side effects you could get from the influenza vaccine.

The Department of Health says common reactions to the COVID-19 vaccination can include:

  • Pain, swelling or redness on the needle area

  • A mild fever

  • Headache

These reactions will only last a day or so. If these issues continue to linger, visit your doctor. Additionally, if you have more severe reactions, immediately contact your doctor or go to hospital.

The way the two different vaccines work are different - the AstraZeneca vaccine is stronger in the first dose, so you are likely to experience symptoms on the first dose rather than the second dose. The Pfizer vaccine is stronger on the second dose, so you are more likely to experience less symptoms on the first dose and more symptoms on the last dose. 

Now I know how to access the vaccine, what’s next?

You can use the Federal Government Vaccine Eligibility Checker to find out if you are eligible as well as find a location that is providing vaccinations and make a booking. You can also check your State/Territory health department’s website for any additional eligibility requirements. 

You should also talk to your doctor to find out if it is safe for you to receive the vaccine. It will be safe in most cases for people with disability.

You can also ask friends and family if you need help with transport to your vaccination appointment. Alternatively, if you live in a disability residential care facility, talk to your provider about when vaccines will become available.

To view more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Department of Health website. There you can also find Auslan videos and easy read resources with information about COVID-19 vaccines for people with disability.

What are your concerns about accessing the COVID-19 vaccine as a person with disability? Let us know in the comments below.

Related content:

Mythbusting false information about the COVID-19 vaccine

Victorian Government announce vaccination ‘blitz’ for disability workers

Further support for NDIS participants during COVID-19