COVID-19 Vaccination Information

Hi all, I’m sure you are as confused as we are regarding the rollout of COVID immunisations. Frankly it’s been chaotic. Here’s where we are on 22nd March 2021. 

The initial plan was for the government to introduce 1000 vaccination sites across the country, which would be devoted to immunising very quickly and efficiently large numbers of patients. A national booking platform would be used.  

However, the government has changed its mind, reasons unclear, and now 4500 practices will be delivering the vaccine. But unfortunately, this means a lot more confusion and a lot less vaccines per practice, so efficiency falls. 

Azure Medical will not be delivering the vaccine at the present time, as the rules are that COVID vaccination clinics have separate waiting areas, entries, exits, etc. and we realised we were not going to be able to continue functioning as a GP clinic if this happened. 

 

How to book a COVID immunisation. 

Find information on how to book your COVID vaccination at a registered clinic here.

  • Firstly, you need to check your eligibility using the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker.
  • If you are eligible, you will be supplied with a “Make a Booking” link. From there you will be taken to a list of practices providing the vaccination.

Unfortunately, the online booking platform that was meant to handle these requests is not yet fully functional, meaning that clinics have been over-run with phone calls. Most patients that call are then turned away because they have no stock of the vaccine……confusion reigns! This is greatly magnified by press releases coming out before the health system is actually informed of what’s going on. We can only hope that the situation improves very rapidly before people lose all faith in the system.

 

Who is eligible, when?

Australia is currently in Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, this included: 

  1. Elderly adults aged 80 years and over
  2. Elderly adults aged 70-79 years
  3. Other health care workers
  4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over 55
  5. Adults with a specified medical condition
    (*People will need to provide proof of these conditions to demonstrate their eligibility for vaccination via My health record, a health professional referral if required or a declaration form – see below)
  6. Adults with a disability who have a specified underlying medical condition
  7. Critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

Specified medical conditions

There is a long list of specified medical conditions which you can read here.
Note, any adult (18+) with one of these conditions is eligible. 

It’s very important that you can provide proof of eligibility due to having a specific medical condition. Please ensure your My Health Record is up to date. If necessary, book a review with your GP. Alternatively, you can self-declare your own eligibility using this form. 

Special populations:

  • Frail elderly, including those in residential care. For further advice about making an informed decision regarding vaccination, click here. 
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women decision guide. Click here to view.

 

Phase 1b  will be around 15 million doses. After that, we will have Phases 2a, 2b and C.

Phase 2a 

  1. Adults aged 60-69 years
  2. Adults aged 50-59 years
  3. Continue vaccinating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults
  4. Other critical and high-risk workers
  5. Number of doses up to 15.8m

 Phase 2b 

  1. Balance of adult population
  2. Catch up any unvaccinated Australians from previous phases
  3. Number of doses up to 16m

Phase 3 < 16 if recommended*
Number of doses - up to 13.6m

Note, no vaccination is currently approved for use in children, and the need for vaccination in this group is unclear due to low infection and transmission rates. 

 The different vaccinations available. Currently, two COVID vaccinations have TGA approval for use in Australia:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Oxford/Astrazeneca

 These vaccines have been extensively tested and trialled, and have been found to be effective in:

  • Preventing development of COVID-19 symptoms and
  • Protecting against severe disease.

What vaccine you will receive depends upon availability and TGA determination. Most Australian are likely to get AstraZeneca, as that will be produced onshore. Pfizer is being used for early groups due to quicker availability.

 

How do the vaccines work

Reproduced from the ABC

Not all Australians will get the same vaccine, but both drugs are trying to achieve the same goal. 

All vaccines want to train a person's immune system to recognise a particular virus as dangerous before the person succumbs to the disease. 

One way to identify the virus that causes COVID-19 is by its surface spikes, which are made of a protein unique to this virus.

To get a person's body to recognise the virus, both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines use the body's own cells to produce the spike protein. 

They then show this protein to the body's immune system so it can produce the cells needed to destroy any foreign organism displaying it. 

Where the vaccines differ is the way they give the body's cells the information they need to produce that protein.

For the Pfizer vaccine, scientists have created a piece of mRNA — or messenger ribonucleic acid — that contains all the instructions a cell needs to create the protein that identifies coronavirus. 

To deliver the instructions into the body's cells, they have packaged it in a tiny fatty particle, a nano lipid. 

Dr Quinn said lipids were a very efficient way of getting inside cells.

"If you've got a little bubble of liquid, it's much more likely to bind to the surface of the cell and deliver its payload into the cells," she said.

Once the mRNA is inside the cell, its machinery produces the target protein, displays it on the surface of the cell, and as a result the body's immune system creates T-cells and B-cells that now know what to look out for.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a weakened virus to deliver the instructions into our cells.

The scientists working on this vaccine have inserted a piece of genetic code, this time DNA, into the code of a similar virus that has been altered so it cannot cause disease.

Dr Quinn, who has worked on the development of several vaccines, said weak viruses were chosen as the carrier cells, and then they were turned into mere shells. 

"We got them further just to make sure that they really can't cause any issues," she said.

As with the Pfizer vaccine, when this one enters our cells, it teaches them to make the spike protein and shows it to the immune system, so the T-cells know how to neutralise it when they next see it.

 

Side-effects, how many doses are required, and other questions.

The Guardian have set up a page with a lot of current information which is being regularly updated. View it here.

 

Conclusion

  • Australia has a vaccination plan in place, but there are unfortunately a lot of frustrating problems cropping up in the early phases of this. 
  • Hopefully as more vaccinations become available and systems improve, the scale of vaccination can be greatly accelerated as this is key to tackling COVD and releasing restrictions, especially with international travel.
  • If you would like to discuss the COVID immunisation further, please make an appointment to come and see your GP. In-person or telephone / online appointments are available. 

 

Stay informed

Bookmark this page because we will keep it up-to-date with links and information regarding the COVID immunisation.

COVID Vaccination FAQs