Approval for use in Australia
From Tuesday 21 March 2023 Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) is no longer available. The information on this page is for those that have previously received a primary course and/or booster dose of AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca was approved for use as a primary course and booster dose in people aged 18 years and over.
The TGA provisionally approved it for use in Australia as a primary course on 15 February 2021.
The TGA provisionally approved for use in Australia as a booster on 8 February 2022.
Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax COVID-19 vaccines were preferred over AstraZeneca for people aged under 60 years. This was based on the higher risk and observed severity of a rare side effect called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS) after receiving AstraZeneca in people aged under 60 years compared with people aged 60 years or older.
For most people the AstraZeneca primary course is 2 doses, 4 to 12 weeks apart.
Most people had their second dose 12 weeks after their first, but it may have been less time in certain situations.
AstraZeneca was also used as a booster dose in people aged 18 years and older.
mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are the preferred vaccines for booster doses, regardless of which vaccine was used for the primary course.
If you have had COVID-19, you should wait to be vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine 6 months after your confirmed infection.
What's in the AstraZeneca vaccine
The AstraZeneca vaccine used 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 did not contain any live virus, and it could not 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
AstraZeneca was a very safe vaccine. It was given to millions of people around the world.
As with any vaccine, you may have had some temporary side effects after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. This showed that your immune system was working.
Common side effects after the AstraZeneca vaccine include:
- injection site pain or tenderness
- muscle pain
- fever and chills.
Less common side effects after AstraZeneca vaccine include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- pain in arm or leg
- decreased appetite
- stomach pain.
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.
Rare side effects
Rare side effects after the AstraZeneca vaccine were severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), a specific type of blood clots called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), myocarditis and pericarditis.
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.
TTS can occur at different parts of the body, including the brain and in the abdomen (belly). The low level of blood platelets can potentially cause bleeding.
TTS seems to occur:
- symptoms of TTS most commonly develop 4 to 42 days after vaccination.
- Predominantly after the first dose
- More often in younger women.
TTS can be treated very effectively and most people recover.
The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre has a page on TTS that includes an explanatory video.
Low risk of developing TTS
In Australia, the risk of developing TTS after a first dose of AstraZeneca is around 20 in a million.
Find out more about TTS.
Myocarditis and pericarditis
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) could occur after AstraZeneca. Cases were reported in post-licensure use internationally.
These rare effects on the heart typically occured:
- within 1 to 5 days of vaccination
- predominantly after the second dose
- more often in men under 40 years
But they could occur in any gender, at any age, and after any dose.
Low risk of developing myocarditis or pericarditis
The risk of developing myocarditis or pericarditis is very low.
The risk of developing myocarditis and pericarditis was lower after AstraZeneca than after mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna). Data from the United Kingdom indicate a rate after AstraZeneca of 16 cases per million doses after dose 2 in young people aged 18 to 29 years.
Find out more about myocarditis and pericarditis.
We also have a printable guidance on myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccines for providers.
The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre has a page on myocarditis and pericarditis that includes an explanatory video.
After your COVID-19 vaccination
Find out what to do after you are vaccinated for COVID-19, including how to get your vaccination certificate, what you need to do to stay safe and what to do if you have side effects.
Our patient resources include fact sheets about the AstraZeneca vaccine and what to expect after your shot.