Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination

With Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program underway, we are receiving questions from patients and carers about vaccination for people affected by cancer. The information and resources on this page should address some of your uncertainties.

COVID-19 vaccination fact sheet

This fact sheet was prepared in collaboration with Cancer Council Victoria to address some of the most common questions being asked about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers on the COVID-19 vaccination program.

If you have further questions and are on active treatment, please call your Patient Navigator.

If you're not on active treatment, you can also contact Cancer Council Victoria’s cancer nurses on 13 11 20, who can provide information and support services to anyone affected by cancer - whether it's patients, carers, family, friends, workplaces or health professionals. You can also email them via their Contact a cancer nurse form. The nurses are available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. If you need a translator to use this service, call 13 14 50.

FAQs

Yes. Victoria has reserved COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people aged 12 years and over deemed to be vulnerable and at high risk from COVID-19, including people with or recovering from cancer. COVID-19 vaccination is highly recommended for people with cancer. If you are undergoing treatment, we recommend you consult your treating specialist or doctor regarding optimal vaccination timing. For more information, view this fact sheet

There are four COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Novavax. All vaccines have passed Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration’s assessment and approval processes that assess vaccine safety, quality, and effectiveness.

They do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore there is no risk of catching the infection from the vaccines.

All individuals should follow Australia-wide advice on which vaccines to take, based on their age and medical history.

COVID-19 vaccines are free and currently available for everyone aged 5 years and over. 

For more information on who can get their COVID-19 vaccination, see www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/who-can-get-vaccinated

All four vaccines - Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca - have passed Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration’s assessment and approval processes that assess vaccine safety, quality and effectiveness.

They do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore there is no risk of catching the infection from the vaccines.

All individuals should follow Australia-wide advice on which vaccines to take, based on their age and medical history.

Some types of cancer and their treatment increase the risk of catching COVID-19 and having a more severe illness from COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is therefore highly recommended.

How your immune system responds to the vaccine may be influenced by your own general health and your cancer treatment. We know from studies of COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancer that the level of response or protection from vaccination may be lower compared to people without cancer.

The following steps that you have taken to reduce your risk of infection are important even after a vaccine and include:                 

  • physical distancing,
  • hand hygiene
  • the use of masks

Such measures help prevent infection. In addition, early testing if you develop symptoms is important as there are treatments available that could help reduce the severity of infection.

All individuals should follow Australia-wide advice on which vaccines to take, based on their age and medical history.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, or to a particular type of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should discuss the type of reaction you had with your doctor. You may be referred to specialised vaccination clinics for further assessment and, if suitable, for vaccination under close supervision.

While it is ideal to get vaccinated before starting treatment, a patient receiving cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy) can still safely get vaccinated. Your doctor will be able to discuss timing of vaccination with you, as with some therapies it may be preferable to avoid vaccination during certain treatment periods.  This is to avoid confusion around possible side effects and whether they have been caused by the vaccine or your cancer treatment.

People with a blood cancer diagnosis (myeloma, lymphoma or leukaemia) are at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 infection. Vaccination against COVID-19 is therefore highly recommended, as long as the person does not have a serious allergy to components of the COVID-19 vaccine.

For patients who have had an autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplant, vaccination is recommended at least three months after your transplant. Even if you have been vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the transplant, re-vaccination with three doses after your transplant is recommended.

Common side effects from the vaccine have typically been mild and short-lived – like pain or redness at the injection site. Up to half of all vaccinated people will experience some general side effects such as tiredness, headache and muscle aches and fever.

You should seek medical advice if, for example, you develop a fever, with shivering and sweating or if unexpected symptoms such as severe headache or chest pain appear or persist following vaccination.

The current recommended gap between a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines is at least seven days.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, or to a particular type of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should discuss the type of reaction you had with your doctor. You may be referred to specialised vaccination clinics for further assessment and, if suitable, for vaccination under close supervision.

The COVID-19 vaccines are available in state-run vaccination centres, general practitioners and community pharmacies. Visit the Department of Health website for more information.

When enough of us get vaccinated against COVID-19, life will be better for everyone.

See links to information and videos in languages other than English.  

It is encouraged that you share these vital messages with your friends, family, colleagues and social media networks.

As the level of response or protection from COVID-19 vaccination may be lower in people with cancer compared to people without cancer, it is recommended that most cancer patients get three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to provide the best immunity. If you have completed two doses, a third dose is recommended, two to six months following your second dose. The Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) released a statement on October 8 recommending a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals who are severely immunocompromised.