a vaccine vial and syringe with COVID spores

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for use in Australia. What does this mean for people with a disability and when will they be able to access the vaccine? Links to Easy Read and Auslan resources.

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia. Vaccination in Australia is voluntary, and you can choose if you want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

This information has been supplied by the Australian Government. 

The Australian government have Easy Read and Auslan resources on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. 

Skip to: Eligibility checker | Vaccine supply | Priority rollout | Common questions | More info 

Eligibility checker

From May 3, the rollout began Phase 2a, including over 50s. Phase 1a and 1b are still rolling out slowly, with many people with disability living in supported accomodation in Phase 1a still waiting. 

Answer a few short questions on the Vaccine Eligibility Checker to find out when you will be eligible to book a vaccination. If you are eligible, you will be able to then use the Vaccine Clinic Finder to find the closest clinic, where you can make an appointment to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

You might need help using the Eligibility Checker, as it does not meet accessibility standards for people with low vision or blindness. If you do, you can contact the Disability Gateway on 1800 643 787 or contact them via the National Relay Service (NRS) or Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).

The Department of Health has published a fact sheet that lists the general practices, Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services, and GP-led respiratory clinics where COVID-19 vaccinations will be available to people in phase 1b of the rollout. Go to COVID-19 vaccination - Phase 1b rollout to download the list. You may have to wait for some time until your GP has vaccines available. 

Vaccine supply

Following National Cabinet’s meeting on Thursday 22 April 2021, the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been recalibrated to align with recent advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Read COVID-19 Vaccination Pathways for Recipients and Workers in In-Home and Community Aged Care to find out what that means. 

Everyone in Australia will have access to COVID-19 vaccines eventually. Australia has purchased more than enough vaccines for everyone, but first, each vaccine must get the tick of approval from Australia’s health regulators. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The ATAGI now recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred over the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in adults aged under 50 years. ATAGI notes further evidence of a rare but serious side effect involving thrombosis (clotting) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) following the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. The Government has purchased a further 20 million Pfizer vaccines as a result. 

All up, Australia has purchased more than 134 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, to be able to effectively deliver the vaccines to everyone in Australia. 

The TGA reviews clinical trial data and results for the assessment of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Now that some vaccines have been approved, they will be made available to those most at risk. They include health, aged and disability care workers, aged and disability care residents and border and quarantine workers.

Two doses will be needed per person to offer the best protection. The vaccines will be an important part of our fight against COVID-19, helping to prevent death and serious illness. 

In the meantime, we all need to continue to be COVID safe by practising good hygiene, physical distancing and getting tested if unwell. 

Priority rollout

COVID-19 vaccines will be safe and effective, helping to prevent death and serious illness. Now that our first vaccines have been approved, they will be made available to those most in need of protection first.

These groups have been identified based on expert medical advice.

People at increased risk of exposure, infection and transmission of COVID-19, include:

  • health, aged care and the disability care workforce
  • aged and disability care residents, and
  • people in other higher-risk settings, such as quarantine and border workers.


People who have an increased risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19 include:

  • older people
  • people with pre-existing, medical conditions, and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Priority access will also be given to people working in critical services, such as:

  • emergency services providers, defence force personnel, other health care workers, and
  • people supplying and distributing essential goods and services, such as meat processing.

The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to those most in need will continually be reviewed based on medical data and evidence.

Once the COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out to priority groups, doses will be made available to all other adults.

Research from the pandemic has shown that young people are less likely to experience severe illness from the virus.

If the evidence supports the decision and the vaccines are approved for young people, they will then receive the vaccine. There are no currently registered or recommended vaccines for children under 16.

Common questions

Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca is preferred for adults over 50 years old and the Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred in adults aged under 50 years.

This recommendation is based on:

  • increasing risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in older adults (and hence a higher benefit from vaccination), and
  • a potentially increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following AstraZeneca vaccine in those under 50 years.

The COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in adults aged under 50 years where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits. The incident rate for this complication is extremely low but not insignificant. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine has nonetheless been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for people 18 years and older. Detailed information on the decision can be found on the TGA website.

AstraZeneca will continue providing further data on safety, quality and effectiveness to the TGA.

As part of Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy, the Australian Government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million to be manufactured onshore

Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

COVID-19 can cause serious ongoing health conditions, and sometimes death. Immunisation is a safe and effective way of protecting you and your family.

Immunisation helps protect you and others, especially people who may not be able to be immunised themselves. When you get immunised, you protect yourself as well as helping to protect the whole community.

When enough people in the community get immunised, it is more difficult for the virus to spread. This helps to protect you and people who are at more risk of getting the disease, including unvaccinated members of the community. This means that even those who are too young or too sick to be vaccinated will not encounter the disease. 

What if I am pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy?

The government have a COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy.

What if I have an allergy?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has published clinical advice on the use of COVID-19 vaccines.

They say people who are allergic to any of the ingredients in the COVID vaccines should seek expert advice, as should anyone who has an allergic reaction after the first dose of the COVID vaccine.

And if you have a history of anaphylaxis to any antigen (including food, insect stings, medicines) or if you have an adrenaline autoinjector (such as an EpiPen), you should let medical professionals know, and be monitored for 30 minutes after your vaccine.

What if I have an egg allergy?

Neither the Pfizer nor AstraZeneca vaccines contain egg protein.

Is there anything in the vaccines I may be allergic to?

The Pfizer vaccine contains polyethylene glycol, so anyone with a confirmed or possible history of PEG allergy needs to get expert advice before being vaccinated.

AstraZeneca contains an additive called Polysorbate 80 (which is also used in flu jabs), so have a chat with your doctor if you have previously had a reaction to it.

Why have COVID-19 vaccines been developed so quickly?

The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic means that all available resources and efforts have been directed towards finding a safe and effective vaccine.

This has happened so quickly because:

  • funding and collaboration between vaccine developers and governments around the world at levels never seen before
  • advancements in technology that has allowed vaccines to be developed faster than in the past
  • clinical trials progressed more quickly because COVID-19 was widespread, so differences between vaccinated groups and unvaccinated groups could be detected sooner.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines strengthen your immune system by training it to quickly remember and fight specific viruses or bacteria.

Vaccination involves receiving a vaccine from a needle or drops in the mouth by a trained health professional. A COVID-19 vaccine will be from a needle. This may hurt a little bit.

After vaccination, if you do catch the disease, it is likely your illness will be less severe.

Vaccines are a safe way to strengthen your immune system without causing illness.

Are there any side effects?

All medicines, including vaccines, have risks and benefits. Usually, any side effects are mild and may only last a few days.

Through clinical trials, some of the temporary side effects reported for COVID-19 vaccines are normal such as pain at the injection site, fever or muscle aches.

Do I have to get vaccinated?

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia. Vaccination in Australia is voluntary, and you can choose if you want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is possible that in the future, vaccination against COVID-19 might become a requirement for travel or for people working in certain high-risk workplaces like aged care. If this becomes the case, there will be exemptions in place for people who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical conditions.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and annual influenza (flu) vaccine?

Routine scheduling and giving a flu vaccine with a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of the seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days.

You should talk to your health care professional for more information.

How far apart are the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer doses are recommended 21 days apart.

The AstraZeneca jabs are recommended 12 weeks apart.

If you miss the second dose, it's best to discuss this with your doctor who will likely book you in for your second appointment straight away.

Do I have to go to the vaccination appointment alone?

People with a disability can attend their vaccination appointment with whoever they feel most comfortable with. This could include a support worker, family member, carer or friend.

COVIDSafe practices will still be required to be observed including social distancing and masks if applicable depending on the location.

It is important to maintain COVIDSafe practices like staying 1.5 m apart (social distancing), wearing masks (especially in confined and busy spaces) and frequent and thorough hand washing.

Can I still get coronavirus after I’ve had the vaccine?

Clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines protect against COVID-19 symptoms and severe disease after a person receives two doses.

We don’t have enough information to understand the long-term protection against COVID-19 after vaccination at this stage.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will continue to monitor the ongoing research to understand how the vaccines work over time. This is why it’s important that even you have been vaccinated, you should continue practising good hygiene, physical distancing and other COVIDSafe recommendations.

Can I infect someone else after I’ve had the vaccine?

We don’t have enough information from research to understand whether people who have been vaccinated can pass the virus onto others. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will continue to monitor the ongoing research to understand whether the vaccines can stop a person from passing the virus onto another person.

This is why it’s important that even you have been vaccinated, you should continue practising good hygiene, physical distancing and other COVIDSafe recommendations.

What about Support Worker Vaccination?

Vaccinations in Australia are voluntary, including the COVID-19 vaccine, and you have a choice over the people you employ to support you.

You can ask your disability service provider to encourage your support worker to be vaccinated against COVID-19. If the worker does not wish to be vaccinated, the service provider will need to consult with you to make alternative arrangements for your support if this is an issue for you. This may mean identifying another support worker for example.

Getting support if you choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary and you can decide whether you want to be vaccinated or not.

If a disability service provider or support worker refuses to continue providing supports to you because you decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it could be a breach of the NDIS Code of Conduct (NDIS Providers), In this case, a complaint can be made to the NDIS Commission.

What about consent for the COVID-19 vaccination?

If a person with a disability is not able to provide individual consent for the vaccine, a guardian or person responsible would make the decision. This guardian or person responsible must have all the necessary information to make an informed decision on behalf of the person with a disability.

This includes getting direct information from their GP about the suitability of treatment. To provide consent for some procedures a consent form must be completed, this is available here. If the person with a disability is getting the vaccination from their usual GP, consent may be provided over the phone instead. 

It is important to remember that the doctor cannot provide consent on behalf of the person with a disability unless no one else is available and they are the vaccine provider. 

For more information about medical consent, click here.

Need more information? 

For more information please contact the Disability Gateway or visit the Department of Health vaccine website www.health.gov.au/covid19-vaccines or Department of Health Information for People with Disability about COVID-19 vaccines.

See the ABC's coverage on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for a full breakdown of the rollout strategy and what you can expect during and after vaccination. 

A COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit for Disability Service Providers has been made by the Australian Government Department of Health. 

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