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Older people and vaccines

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Older people and vaccines

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COVID-19 information for older people

Vaccination is the best form of protection against COVID-19 and can prevent severe disease and death. It is a safe and effective way of protecting you and your family. 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and is recommended to be given to people aged 60 years and over. 

The benefits of receiving the vaccine are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits. (refer to weighing up potential benefits against risk from COVID-19

AstraZeneca 

ATAGI Guidance for older people 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Australian Government announced on 17 June 2021, that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is now only recommended for people aged 60 years and over. This recommendation follows the higher risk and observed severity of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to its use in the 50-59 year old age group than reported internationally and initially estimated in Australia.  

ATAGI clinical guidance on COVID-19 vaccine in Australia in 2021 

Interchangeability of vaccines 

On the basis of currently available information, Comirnaty and COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are not considered interchangeable. The two-dose course should be completed with the same vaccine. There are no data yet on the efficacy of mixed schedules.

If an individual develops anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction after the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, an alternate brand should be considered for the second dose. If an alternate brand is used for the second dose, a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be given. If an individual develops thrombosis with thrombocytopenia after the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, Comirnaty can be used for the second dose. A third dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be given.

It is recommended to receive the second dose of a different vaccine (either Comirnaty or COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca) at an interval of 4 weeks (if first dose was Comirnaty) to 12 weeks (if first dose was AstraZeneca) after the first dose.  In all circumstances, a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be given

If an individual develops thrombosis with thrombocytopenia after the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, Comirnaty can be used for the second dose. A third dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be given. 

The only absolute contraindications to a COVID-19 vaccine are: 

  • anaphylaxis after a previous dose of the same vaccine 
  • anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine, including: o anaphylaxis to polyethylene glycol (PEG) for Comirnaty 
  • anaphylaxis to polysorbate 80 for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca 
  • thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca 
  • other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine  

ATAGI Advice

See also our page on COVID-19 Outbreaks, Testing and Management for older people here.

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