Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine EXPLAINED: Where, when, how I can get it, is it safe, and everything you need to know
The Morrison Government is campaigning for Australians to get their COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.
A “terrifying” advertisement, which shows a young woman gasping for air while laying in a hospital bed, is the latest weapon in the government’s arsenal as part of its push for broader public vaccination.
Scroll down to see your questions about the Pfizer vaccine answered
The head of Australia’s vaccine taskforce wants young Australians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and the ad was designed to be confronting.
Amid the major push for Australians to get a COVID jab, we’ve collated answers to some of your biggest questions about the Pfizer vaccine.
How does the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine work?
Pfizer and its German-based partner BioNTech use a new approach to making vaccines that uses messenger RNA or mRNA.
This design was chosen for a pandemic vaccine years ago because it’s one that lends itself to quick turnaround. All that is needed is the genetic sequence of the virus causing the pandemic. Vaccine makers don’t even need the virus itself – just the sequence.
In this case, BioNTech researchers used a little piece of genetic material coding for a piece of the spike protein – the structure that adorns the surface of the novel coronavirus, giving it that studded appearance.
Messenger RNA is a single strand of the genetic code that cells can “read” and use to make a protein. In the case of this vaccine, the mRNA instructs the muscle cells in the arm to make the particular piece of the virus’s spike protein. Then the immune system sees it, recognises it as foreign and is prepared to attack when actual infection occurs.
Clinical trials showed Pfizer’s vaccine was 95 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic infections. Pfizer is working to show the vaccine can prevent all infections, including those that don’t cause symptoms.
MRNA is very fragile so it’s encased in lipid nanoparticles – a coating of a buttery substance that can melt at room temperature. That’s why Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at ultracold temperatures of about minus 75C. That means special equipment is needed to transport and store this vaccine.
Where can I get the Pfizer vaccine?
All Australians will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you are eligible to get a vaccine, based on the national vaccination schedule, you will be able to see a list of your nearest clinics using the Eligibility Checker tool.
This list of clinics continues to update as more clinics come on-board and more vaccines become available in Australia.
How to get Pfizer vaccine in Australia
Australians can use the Eligibility Checker to find out when they can receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Those who are eligible will be able to see where they can get the vaccine and book an appointment.
If you are not yet eligible, you will be able to register your interest so that you can be notified when you are able to book.
Is the Pfizer vaccine effective against the Delta variant and new variants?
Pfizer has warned it is seeing immunity from its COVID vaccine begin to fall as more variants emerge.
Ongoing research is showing that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine induces antibodies that are able to respond to a variety of mutations in the virus that causes COVID-19. The TGA will continue to closely monitor developments and do their own genetic examination of local cases.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said evidence was building that people’s immunity starts to wane after they have been vaccinated.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to provide full immunity.
“As seen in real world data released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination, although efficacy in preventing serious illnesses remains high,” Pfizer said in a statement emailed to CNN.
“Additionally, during this period the Delta variant is becoming the dominant variant in Israel as well as many other countries. These findings are consistent with an ongoing analysis from the company’s phase 3 study.
“While protection against severe disease remained high across the full six months, a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time and the continued emergence of variants are expected.
“Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial within six to 12 months following the second dose to maintain highest levels of protection.”
It gave no further details.
Australia’s Department of Health said the TGA is keeping a close eye on developments.
“Ongoing research is showing that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine induces antibodies that are able to respond to a variety of mutations in the virus that causes COVID-19,” reads the Department of Health’s website.
“The TGA will continue to closely monitor developments and do our own genetic examination of local cases.”
Is Pfizer vaccine safe?
Reported side-effects are rare and usually mild.
They include fever and headache, although a very few people have experienced allergic reactions to the vaccine.
Europe’s drug regulator in July said it discovered a possible link between very rare heart inflammation and COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Shortly after the discovery was announced, an advisory panel of the World Health Organisation stated it believed the benefits of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the very small risk they might cause heart inflammation, as the jabs reduce hospitalisations and deaths.
It says reports of two rare conditions – myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, and of its lining, called pericarditis – have typically occurred within days of vaccination, mainly among younger males after the second dose.
“Follow-up is ongoing to determine long-term outcomes,” the WHO said.
Who can get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine?
“You should always discuss any existing medical conditions with your doctor or pharmacist before you get any vaccine,” says the Health Department.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) provides clinical guidance and advice for COVID-19 vaccines approved in Australia. The information below is based on ATAGI guidance.
Everyone in Australia will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are a number of groups who should exercise caution and get professional medical advice ahead of their vaccination. They include:
- Those with compromised immune systems or allergies
- Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy
- Frail and elderly people
- People with a disability
- Those who have recently had other vaccinations
- Those who have had COVID-19 and recovered
Each COVID-19 vaccine can be slightly different. It is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any existing medical conditions to find out if vaccination is suitable for you.
How long between Pfizer vaccine shots?
In April, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla admitted people would “likely” need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated.
In July, as indicated above, the drugmaker said it was picking up its efforts to develop a booster dose that will protect people from variants.
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws told Seven’s The Latest that Australians may need a third vaccine dose sooner than 12 months.
Watch Professor McLaws’ interview with Michael Usher in the video player below
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“With more research done and as we’re learning more about COVID-19 it would appear we need a third shot, preferably around eight months,” she said.
“But that (time) would depend on what your vaccine efficacy was.”
She added the priority, however, was getting first and second doses into Australian arms before worrying about a third.
Where is Pfizer vaccine made?
The vaccine doses purchased by the Australian Government will be manufactured in the United States, Belgium and Germany.
When is Australia getting more Pfizer vaccine?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that the federal government has brought forward its supply of Pfizer COVID vaccines.
Pfizer has committed to delivering more doses to Australia sooner than expected, with one million doses to be rolled out each week from mid-July.
That’s compared to the current weekly average of around 300,000 doses.
Watch the Prime Minister’s announcement in the video player below
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– with CNN, AAP