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Information for the stroke community about COVID-19 vaccination

February 15, 2021

The information below is general in nature guided by the Stroke Foundation Clinical Council. If you are considering getting vaccinated or have concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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It is important even with the vaccine to continue to be COVIDSafe. Everyone still needs to:

Why should I get vaccinated?

Having the vaccine means you are much less likely to become seriously ill or die from COVID-19.

It is your choice to have the vaccine. Everyone will have access to the vaccine, and it is free.

Survivors of stroke are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19 meaning vaccinating against it is very important. Talk to your doctor about the vaccine.

Having the vaccine could also benefit those around you. Although it doesn't mean you can't spread the virus, it may make it less likely. More people vaccinated also reduces the potential for the virus changing and stopping a vaccine from working.

Is the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine safe for people who have had a stroke?

If you have concerns about the vaccine or other medications, please talk to your doctor.

The vaccine is safe for people who have had a stroke.

It was approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) because independent, robust evidence showed it was safe and worked. The TGA looks at evidence of its safety and effectiveness for a range of different ages, health conditions and lifestyle factors before approving its use. This includes survivors of stroke and older people.

In fact, older people and people with an underlying medical condition or disability including stroke are among those who will received the vaccine first because of vulnerability to COVID-19.

The TGA is actively monitoring COVID-19 vaccine development both in Australia and around the world, and is also part of a network of international regulators that meet regularly to discuss the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Are there things I need to tell my health professional before having the vaccine?

Tell your doctor, pharmacist or nurse beforehand if any of the below apply you. Your health and wellbeing is their priority. It may mean there may are thing the health professional needs to check or discuss with you before vaccinating, or it may mean you cannot have the vaccine:

Your immune system does not work properly (immunodeficiency) or you are taking medicines that weaken the immune system (such as high-dose corticosteroids, immunosuppressants or cancer medicines).

You have ever had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after any other vaccine injection.

You currently have a severe infection with a high temperature (over 38°C).

You have a problem with bleeding or bruising, or if you are taking a blood thinning medicine (anticoagulant).

What if I am on blood thinners like warfarin or other anticoagulants?

Talk to your doctor or health professional before having the vaccine.

Generally, the vaccine is safe for people on blood thinners, however there is some risk of mild bleeding as with any injection.

Like most vaccines, the coronavirus vaccine is injected into the muscle of your upper arm. Injections into your muscle may bleed a little more than injections that are given under the skin, but less than those that are given into a vein.

If you are taking a blood thinner the bleeding may take a little longer to stop and you may get more bruising on your upper arm.

What if I am taking blood thinners like clopidogrel or other antiplatelet drugs?

Yes, the vaccine is safe for people taking clopidogrel and other antiplatelet medications. You may experience a little more bruising around the injection site.

Which vaccines are available in Australia?

Australian Government Department of Health information on the vaccine program.

Are there any side effects to the vaccines?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although many people don’t get any side effects at all. If you have concerns talk to your doctor or health professional.

The vast majority of side effects from a vaccination are mild and short-term. The most common are pain at the injection site, feeling generally unwell, tiredness, headache, muscle pain and joint pain. You can take paracetamol to treat any of these side effects.

Often the side effects are just a sign that the vaccine is doing its job: it can happen with many vaccines that some people might feel slightly unwell because their immune system is responding to the vaccination, but this is not a COVID-19 illness.

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

One of the side effects to all vaccines can be an allergic reaction the majority of which are mild but can be more severe. All vaccinations are given in centres staffed by doctors and nurses and you will be asked to wait for 15 minutes after you have had the vaccination to monitor you for any reaction.

Will I be able to pass on the virus to others if I’ve had the vaccine?

We don’t yet know for sure, but it may be possible for you to pass the virus on even if you’ve been vaccinated.

The vaccine will reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the virus, it may not stop you from getting it and giving it to others.

So, even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s really important to continue to be COVID-19 safe. This means continuing to:

Wear a mask when needed.

I’ve already had COVID-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes, it’s really important to get the vaccine, even if you’ve already had COVID-19. You may have some level of immunity if you’ve had the disease, but this varies and may not last long.

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

You may feel unwell after the vaccination, often the side effects of a vaccine are a sign the vaccine is doing its job, but this is not a COVID-19 illness.

When will I get the vaccine?

Survivors of stroke are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and as such will be among those vaccinated early. For more information see the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free.

Which vaccine will I get?

The vaccine you get will depend on which vaccines are available in your area and to your priority group.

All vaccines made available through the Australian Government’s immunisation program are safe and effective.

How does the vaccine work?

Can I have two different vaccines?

Your first and second dose should be of the same type of vaccine.

If you do not receive a second dose or your second dose is from a different vaccine you may not be protected from the virus.

Under exceptional circumstances you may receive different vaccines, this must be discussed with your doctor or health professional.

Do I still need to have a flu vaccine?

Flu is caused by a different virus to the virus which causes COVID-19. It is important to have both vaccines if you are offered them.

The flu vaccine will be rolled out from April.

Importantly, There must be a 14 day gap between having a COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about the timing of the vaccinations.

How quickly does the vaccine work?

Protection from the virus starts after 12-14 days. This is because your immune system needs to generate a response, and people’s immune systems can vary.

How long does the vaccine last?

We don't yet know exactly how long protection will last, because the vaccines haven’t been around for long enough.

The second dose is more important for longer-lasting protection, so it's really important to get your second dose.

The length of protection may vary between different vaccines. It is likely to be at least several months, but it may be that repeat vaccinations are needed. Researchers are studying this closely.

Disclaimer

This information provided by the Stroke Foundation Clinical Council is general in nature. For individualised advice please talk to your doctor or health professional.

For the latest information about the Australian Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine program

National coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine helpline 1800 020 080.

For the latest on the COVID19 health alert.

For information and advice on stroke prevention, treatment and recovery contact StrokeLine 1800 787 653.