Find out more about the AstraZeneca vaccine, including how it works, who it's recommended for and advice about potential side effects.
Approval for use in Australia
Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) is approved for use in people aged 18 years and over.
The TGA provisionally approved it for use in Australia on 15 February 2021.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people:
- aged 60 and over
- aged 18 to 59 in outbreak areas, if they do not have immediate access to Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna).
If you are aged 18 to 59, you can choose to get protected with the AstraZeneca vaccine:
- following an assessment by a qualified health professional
- if you provide verbal or written consent.
In a large outbreak, ATAGI advises that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine are greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.
You need 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, given 4 to 12 weeks apart.
You may not be fully protected against COVID-19 until 7 to 14 days after your second dose.
Most people have their second dose 12 weeks after their first, but it can be less time in certain situations.
ATAGI recommends a shorter interval of 4 to 8 weeks between the first and second doses in an outbreak so that maximal protection against COVID-19 can be achieved earlier.
What's in the AstraZeneca vaccine
The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless, weakened animal virus (called a viral vector) that contains the genetic code for the coronavirus spike protein. Once this enters the body, it tells your cells to make copies of the spike protein. Your immune cells then recognise the spike protein as a threat and begin building an immune response against it.
The AstraZeneca vaccine does not contain any live virus, and it cannot give you COVID-19.
You can read the full Vaxzevria Consumer Medicine Information document on the TGA site for more details (click 'I accept' to see the PDF).
Common side effects
As with any vaccine, you may have some temporary side effects after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. This shows your immune system is working.
Common side effects after the AstraZeneca vaccine include:
- injection site pain or tenderness
- muscle pain
- fever and chills.
Most side effects are mild and go away within 1 to 2 days. They are more common after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
People who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine without any serious adverse effects should have the second dose to gain full protection. This includes people under 60 years old.
Rare side effects
In rare cases, people may develop a specific type of blood clots after their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)
TTS involves blood clots (thrombosis) together with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). It is different from more common types of blood clots.
Symptoms of TTS most commonly develop 4 to 42 days after vaccination. See a doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- severe or persistent headache that does not go away after taking pain relief medication
- abdominal pain.
Read more in our fact sheet Information on COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine.
Low risk of developing TTS
In Australia, the risk of developing TTS after a first dose of AstraZeneca is around 20 in a million.
1 in a million is really rare. See how it compares. You are more likely to be struck by lightning or die from taking daily aspirin than to die from TTS after vaccination with AstraZeneca.
Treatment for TTS
TTS can be treated very effectively and most people recover.
Fact sheets on TTS
We have printable fact sheets on TTS for:
The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre has a page on TTS that includes an explanatory video.
Injection technique unlikely to cause TTS
ATAGI does not consider injection technique to cause adverse events for several reasons.
- Most cases of TTS only happen after the first dose. If accidentally injecting into a blood vessel was a factor, cases would occur equally after both doses.
- Directly injecting into a blood vessel is unlikely in the recommended injection sites.
- TTS typically occurs some days or even weeks after vaccination. If it was caused by injecting into the blood stream instead of a muscle, it would occur much earlier.
Risks and benefits
The Delta variant has changed the risk/benefit profile of vaccination with AstraZeneca.
ATAGI recommends that in outbreak areas, everyone aged 18 years and above should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca.
Use in particular groups
You can still get vaccinated with AstraZeneca if you have a:
- history of blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE)
- weakened immune system (immunocompromise)
- history of COVID-19 (but your doctor may advise you to wait for up to 6 months after recovery).
Pregnant women are offered Pfizer or Moderna as first choice, but can take AstraZeneca if the benefits outweigh the risks in their particular case.
Groups who should not have AstraZeneca
ATAGI has recommended some people not be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Contraindications to AstraZeneca are:
- anaphylaxis after a previous dose
- anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine, including polysorbate 80
- history of capillary leak syndrome
- thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after a previous dose
- any other serious adverse event, that following review by an experienced immunisation provider or medical specialist was attributed to a previous dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
ATAGI have also advised that people with a history of one of the following specific blood conditions should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine:
- cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST)
- heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)
- idiopathic splanchnic (mesenteric, portal and splenic) venous thrombosis
- anti-phospholipid syndrome with thrombosis.
Our patient resources include fact sheets about the AstraZeneca vaccine and what to expect after your shot.