EXPLAINER

Why you shouldn't wait for Moderna or Pfizer vaccines

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across the nation, some Australians are still deciding whether to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

About 51 per cent of the national population has received one dose of any vaccine, and about 29 per cent are fully vaccinated.

We've answered your most burning questions about the AstraZeneca, with help from University of Western Australia Professor of Immunology Cassandra Berry.

I'm under 60 and I want the AstraZeneca, but I don't have a GP

Anyone over 18 can book into any GP to discuss the vaccine. You can find a doctor that can administer the vaccine through the Commonwealth's eligibility checker. Patients can receive the vaccine at their consultation appointment if they give informed consent. Vaccination providers cannot charge you for the vaccine or appointments to receive the vaccine.

Assistant director of COVID ACT nursing Regina Ginich and nurse Marisha Christian with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Picture: Karleen Minney

Assistant director of COVID ACT nursing Regina Ginich and nurse Marisha Christian with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Picture: Karleen Minney

I'm under 60 and I want the AstraZeneca, but my GP has advised me not to. Can I still get it?

The Department of Health did not recommend going against your GP's medical advice.

However, over-18s can get the vaccine if there is no medical reason not to.

If my first shot was AZ, can I get a second shot of Pfizer or Moderna?

No. You cannot mix vaccines in Australia unless you experienced a severe allergic reaction or serious side-effects after your first dose.

However, Professor Cassandra Berry said mixing vaccines could improve immunity against the virus.

While the need for booster shots was still being reviewed, Dr Berry said it was very likely Australians would need extra shots - but it didn't matter what the brand was.

"I actually think it will work better [mixing vaccines]," she said.

READ MORE COVID-19 NEWS:

"Once everything settles down, and the world has got a really high vaccination rate, we should be able to just get an annual booster for a while. As long as it's towards protecting you against those virus strains that are circulating."

Dr Berry said the risk of blood clotting in the second dose of AstraZeneca was extremely low, and only getting one shot was a waste of the vaccine.

"If you wait longer than 12 weeks, they could be ruining their first dose. And that's being selfish and wasting it when it should really go to other people or other countries," she said.

If I get my second AZ dose before 12 weeks, will it reduce its efficacy?

Capital Chemist group business manager Andrew Topp and pharmacist Yuh-Lin Gan will be able to administer the AZ vaccine. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Capital Chemist group business manager Andrew Topp and pharmacist Yuh-Lin Gan will be able to administer the AZ vaccine. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Yes. While ATAGI recommends leaving 12 weeks between two doses of AstraZeneca, in outbreak areas like greater Sydney, people can get their second dose as early as four weeks after the first.

Dr Berry said it was vital people got the second dose.

"If you just have one dose, it only takes a couple of weeks before you've got really high levels of antibodies, but they probably only last for about three months and then they dip, " said Dr Berry.

"That's why you need a second dose to maintain that level and to introduce that memory."

Should I wait for Pfizer?

Dr Berry said if people waited to get the vaccine they wanted it might be too late.

In NSW, some people who waited for Pfizer had their bookings cancelled so the vaccine could go to year 12 students.

Certain groups, such as under-18s, are only approved Pfizer - so they may be given priority access.

Dr Berry said she was hearing lots of people saying they wanted to wait for Pfizer.

"But they have to wait until the supplies are there. And the question I ask them is, can you really afford to wait? Look how fast the Delta [variant] went around the eastern states," she said.

"It only takes one person to bring it into the community ... [and] once you get the jab in your arm, it still takes a good two weeks before you're protected."

ACT CHO Kerryn Coleman getting vaccinated. Picture: Keegan Carroll

ACT CHO Kerryn Coleman getting vaccinated. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Should I wait for Moderna?

The Moderna vaccine, which is similar in design to Pfizer, has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association.

The federal government has ordered 25 million doses, with 10 million expected to be used as primary vaccinations and 15 million as boosters.

One-million doses are expected to arrive next month and to be delivered through pharmacies.

Only 28 days are needed between the first and second Moderna doses.

However, it is unknown who will be listed as priority to receive Moderna - they might be sent to outbreak areas, or go towards certain groups.

Dr Berry said supplies of all vaccines to Australia were uncertain, cautioning the government could reduce future doses to get more people vaccinated globally.

"We might end up ... having to lower the doses so more people can get our supplies. And so whilst we've got the opportunity to get the standard dose 12 weeks apart ... we should be going for it. We never know how the vaccine supplies will change with time," Dr Berry said.

Can I still get Covid if I am vaccinated?

However, it does greatly reduce your risk of catching it and passing it on.

It also makes it much less likely you will become seriously sick or die from the coronavirus, because you have built up immunity.

Dr Berry said everybody would respond to the vaccine differently and the efficacy varied in different people.

"The [efficacy] numbers don't mean too much to me. It really depends on the individual, on how you respond to the vaccine and whether those levels are more than enough to give you protection from symptoms or disease, or being hospitalised or dying," she said.

"We're all variable in our immune systems, and some people will have comorbidities, so they'll have other chronic disease conditions or disorders in their body at the same time. And we've got different genetics. So there's a lot of different factors that come into play."

The best way to be protected from COVID-19 is not just to be vaccinated but to have everyone around you immunised as well, Dr Berry said.

"You need that herd immunity. You need to be able to have vaccinated people around you in the community so the virus can't get to you through them," she said.

"It's life-giving. Get vaccinated; it's a simple message."

I'm pregnant, planning a baby or breastfeeding, should I get the vaccine?

Rachel Lee was due to give birth during lockdown. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Rachel Lee was due to give birth during lockdown. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Pfizer is available for pregnant people.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and ATAGI have advised pregnant people should be able to get vaccinated at any stage of their trimester.

Dr Berry said as infants could not yet be vaccinated yet, getting immunised while pregnant or breastfeeding may be the best way to protect them.

"As far as I've seen the data, it's safe and you should be able to pass on your antibodies that you make to the baby in the breast milk. And so you provide your neonate, your young baby, with some protection," she said.

Will getting the AZ stop me from travelling?

No. The Department of Health said they were not aware of any jurisdiction that would not accept travellers because they had vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

While Australians who want to travel internationally will likely have to provide a vaccine passport, Dr Berry said antibody testing would be a better method.

"There needs to be some rapid antibody tests that they can do," she said.

"That might be the way in the future, rather than have a stamped vaccine passport.

"It's not about what you got, it's about how you responded to that vaccine. And if you have high enough levels, it should correlate with protection until the virus mutates and escapes the vaccine."

Other than the blood clot risks, are there health risks associated with AZ?

No. The only concern with the AstraZeneca vaccine is a rare risk of blood clotting, which has been fatal in some cases.

The risk of blood clotting is higher among younger people.

Dr Berry said: "The best place to get a blood clot from a vaccine is here in Australia, because you'll be able to be treated well at hospital and recover."

This story Why you shouldn't wait for Moderna or Pfizer vaccines first appeared on The Canberra Times.

Comments

Discuss "Why you shouldn't wait for Moderna or Pfizer vaccines"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.