COVID-19: Getting a vaccine

Find out about the COVID-19 vaccine process. Who can get a vaccine, when you can get it, how to get the vaccine and what to expect before, after and on the day.

The vaccine is given by an injection with a needle in the upper arm and takes two doses at least three weeks apart. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine, as with any vaccine this one may not fully protect all those who receive it and it will take a few weeks for your body to build up protection.

After you have had the vaccine you still need to follow official advice to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Before having the vaccine a healthcare professional will run through your medical history to ensure it is safe for you to have this vaccine.

Some side effects that you might experience include pain where the vaccine was given, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, chills, mild fever and or swollen glands.

These are usually mild in severity and only last for one or two days. Generally these are more common after the second dose of the vaccine. You can take pain medications such as paracetamol to ease these symptoms. Now as with any medicine allergic reactions are possible but very rare.

Current evidence suggests a rare risk of a severe allergic reaction with this vaccine - about five per million. This is why we ask you to stay for 30 minutes after you have been vaccinated.

So COVID-19 vaccines are being held to exactly the same high safety standards as any other vaccine there are many reasons why these vaccines were able to be made more quickly while still being held to the same high safety standards.

First there has been significant investment internationally in the development of these vaccines including taking financial risks such as building manufacturing facilities even before a vaccine has been shown to work.

Researchers policy makers and government officials around the world have been sharing information and working together to absolutely speed things up. There's been decades of previous research on related viruses that has been used to guide the development and finally because there is such a large amount of this disease worldwide at the moment researchers were able to show that the vaccine worked much earlier than when dealing with rarer diseases.

The clinical trials performed on the Pfizer vaccine show it is approximately 95% effective after receiving two doses. The vaccine is less effective after only one dose.

Well we don't yet have the final answer for that because the vaccines have not yet been used for long enough to know. However our research has shown that immunity following natural infection remains for at least eight months and we have every expectation the vaccine immunity will be even longer than this.

If you are pregnant or could be pregnant please discuss this with your vaccinator.

Well at this stage there's not enough data about the effect of this vaccine on children. So it is currently recommended for those who are 16 and above further studies are underway to address this very question.

Why getting vaccinated is important

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step you can take to protect yourself, your kaumātua and whānau from the effects of the virus. It’s one way we can fight the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the welfare and wellbeing of our communities.

By having the vaccine you’ll be playing your part to protect Aotearoa. The free COVID-19 vaccine will help protect the team of five million, and safeguard Aotearoa. It will save lives.

Gaps between different vaccinations

If you're also getting a flu or measles vaccine, you'll need to wait at least:

  • 2 weeks between the COVID-19 vaccine and influenza (flu) vaccine
  • 4 weeks between the COVID-19 vaccine and the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine (if you get the MMR vaccine first)
  • 2 weeks between the COVID-19 vaccine and the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine (if you get the COVID-19 vaccine first)

How the vaccine works

Vaccines work by teaching the body’s immune system to respond quickly to infection without being exposed to the infection itself.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is known as a ‘messenger RNA’ vaccine. These vaccines don’t use virus cells at all – instead, they contain a piece of RNA code that essentially teaches your body to recognise the virus. It can respond straight away if you get infected.

The vaccine won’t give you COVID-19 or affect your DNA

It will not give you COVID-19 and it will not affect your DNA or genes. It does not contain any live virus, or dead or deactivated virus.

Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine

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