The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available from YourGP mid/late March.
If you have questions that we do not answer below, please do not call to ask our administrative team. They do not have any further information. You can post general questions on our Facebook pages under the latest post (links at bottom). This will help us to understand what information you want. We will answer questions and include them in our next email.
For individual questions that relate to your specific health conditions and circumstances, please book an appointment with your regular GP to discuss further.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is a single recombinant, non-replicating viral vector. It uses existing vaccine technology to genetically modify an adenovirus (common cold-causing virus). This technology has previously been tested and successfully used in other vaccines.
The adenovirus has been genetically modified in two ways:
- The genetic code needed for replication has been removed.
- The genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has been added.
The AstraZeneca vaccine-cannot cause COVID-19 or cold infections.
The modified adenovirus can enter human host cells but is not able to replicate inside. Instead, it delivers genetic code instructions to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein only, which is recognised as foreign and an immune response developed. There are no changes to human DNA through this process. These are the same steps that occur when a virus invades normally, except that the spike proteins are reproduced instead of more viruses.
How effective is the vaccine?
Following two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the protection against developing a COVID-19 infection is 62%. This means that some who are exposed to COVID-19 will develop an infection, however, it will be a less severe infection.
In a trial in the UK and Brazil, 12,000 participants were given either two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine or placebo. No-one in the AstraZeneca group developed severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, while 9 in the placebo group developed severe COVID-19 infection.
Two doses are recommended, ideally 12 weeks apart. If this interval is not possible, (e.g., due to overseas travel or a significant medical intervention), then the vaccine can be given with a minimum dose interval of 4 weeks. An interval of 12 weeks is more effective.
COVID vaccination should not be given along with other vaccines as safety and effectiveness have not been adequately studied. It is recommended that other vaccines be given at least 14 days before or after a COVID-19 vaccine.
But I want the Pfizer vaccine instead.
The Pfizer vaccine has a better immune response in preventing COVID-19 infection. However, Pfizer and AstraZeneca are equally effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death. Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are currently only available to those at the highest risk in Rollout Group 1a, due to limited supply. Group 1a eligibility includes aged and disability care residents and staff, border control and hotel quarantine workers, and frontline health staff, e.g., working at COVID testing centres and Emergency Departments.
Our recommendation is to get the vaccine that is available, rather than waiting in the hope that a different vaccine will be offered.
We do not know how long immunity to the current vaccines will last. COVID may continue to circulate throughout the world and mutate, rendering this vaccine less effective. Vaccines will be improved and modified to combat new strains and boosters offered to improve immunity. A vaccination program like the flu vaccine may be developed and given at regular intervals.
Will I test COVID positive if I have the vaccine?
The commonly used throat and nasal swab testing will not be affected. Blood tests, which are not commonly used to test for COVID, may become falsely positive.
What if I have already had a COVID infection?
Vaccination is safe and recommended.
Who should not receive a COVID vaccine?
There is currently only one definite reason to not receive an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is an anaphylactic or hypersensitivity reaction to a previous AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or ingredients.
Non-active ingredients in the vaccine include:
- L-Histidine (an amino acid)
- L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate (an amino acid)
- Magnesium chloride hexahydrate (supports many activities inside cells)
- Polysorbate 80 (a stabiliser)
- Sodium chloride
- Disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA, a binding agent)
No preservatives are used.
None of the vaccine ingredients is of human or animal origin. There is no food, latex or gelatin in the current COVID-19 vaccine.
A previous allergic reaction to another vaccine does not mean there will be an allergy to the COVID-19 vaccine.
No human cells are used in the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine. If you are concerned regarding aborted foetal cells used in the development of this vaccine, you can read further here.
Vaccination should be delayed if you have an illness with a temperature 38oC.
Immunocompromised individuals (people whose immune system is not functioning correctly) are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease and are strongly advised to have the vaccine. This includes people who are on immunosuppression medication, on high-dose steroids or are immunodeficient. Being immunocompromised does not increase potential adverse risks. It is not known yet how effective the vaccine will develop an immune response in those with a compromised immune system.
Vaccination should occur on a different day to regular infusion treatments, such as immunoglobulin replacement therapy or immunosuppressant infusions.
This vaccine is NOT a live-attenuated vaccine, which means it is safe for those who are immunocompromised.
As a precautionary measure, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is not currently routinely recommended during pregnancy. It may be given on an individual basis after weighing up whether the benefits of vaccination outweigh potential risks.
COVID-19 vaccination may be considered in pregnant women when their risk of exposure to infection is high, or where the woman has underlying medical conditions that put her at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher rate of hospitalisation, intensive care unit admission and mechanical ventilation, but not death than age-matched non-pregnant women. The risk of preterm delivery is also increased. There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 infection in pregnancy increases the risk for congenital anomalies.
There is no data on the safe use of the vaccine while breastfeeding. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advises they have no concern for women planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding having the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been given safely to millions of people around the world.
In clinical trials, adverse reactions were mild to moderate in severity and usually resolved within a few days of vaccination. Side effects included symptoms like having a cold, which is normal and expected.
Common side effects include injection site pain/tenderness (>60%), headache (>50%), fatigue (>50%), muscle pain (>40%), fever/chills (>30%), joint pain (>20%) and nausea (>20%).
Side effects were milder and less frequent after the second dose. They were also milder and less common in adults over 65 years of age.
All vaccines have a small risk of a dangerous anaphylactic reaction. The usual rate of anaphylaxis is 0.3 to 2.1 per million vaccine doses. There is no evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine has a higher rate of anaphylaxis, but data is not yet available. The Pfizer vaccine has a slightly higher risk of anaphylaxis at around 5 cases per million doses.
If you experience side effects, we recommend reporting them, to contribute to our understanding of the safety of the vaccine. The following link gives options of self-reporting through an online form, via email or over the phone:
How do I book?
Once the AstraZeneca vaccine delivered is to the practice (expected mid/late March) we will open free online bookings. We are unable to make bookings in advance. When the vaccine first arrives, we will send a notification email. We will continue to open appointments as more vaccine is delivered, so please be patient if bookings are initially full. Further deliveries and online appointment availability will be notified via our Facebook page. Follow us on Facebook to be informed first (links below). If bookings are not available online, we will not be able to offer an appointment if you call. Please wait for more online bookings to be made available.
Drs John and Mel Deery, on behalf of everyone at YourGP.