COVID-19: Underlying health conditions – vaccine advice

Get advice on the COVID-19 vaccine if you have an underlying health or medical condition, and learn if you can get early access to the vaccine.

Last updated: 1 July 2021

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Getting early access

If you have an underlying health condition, you’re more at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

You can get early access to the COVID-19 vaccine if you're aged 16 years and over, and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • you have a health condition that means you’re eligible for a free publicly-funded flu vaccination, including pregnant people. Eligibility criteria: Influenza vaccination
  • you have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness (which includes schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, and adults currently accessing secondary and tertiary mental health and addiction services)
  • you have poorly controlled or severe hypertension (hypertension is another name for high blood pressure). In this case, severe is defined as requiring two or more medications for control
  • you're severely obese (defined as a BMI of 40 or higher). BMI calculator

If you're unsure if your health conditions mean you are eligible for earlier access to the vaccination, talk to your doctor or trusted health care professional.

Consistently high efficacy of over 92% was observed in the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) across age, sex, race, ethnicity, and people with underlying medical conditions.

We'll continue to review the latest evidence on which underlying health conditions could put people at greater risk of getting very sick or dying if they catch COVID-19. 

You can learn about the COVID-19 vaccination rollout groups.

The vaccine rollout


Immunocompromised

If you’re immunocompromised, you have a higher risk of getting serious infection if you’re exposed to COVID-19.

You can get the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) when receiving medication or therapy that affects your immune system (immunosuppression). As with all vaccines, you may not respond as strongly as someone with a fully functioning immune system, but it can protect you from becoming very unwell if you get COVID-19.

The best time to be vaccinated is before any planned immunosuppression, but do not delay any treatment.

If you’re severely immunocompromised, discuss the timing of your vaccination with your doctor or specialist. The vaccine can be given at any stage of treatment. You may be able to time your vaccination appointments between rounds of treatment for the best immune response.

To help protect yourself, encourage your family and the people you live with to also get vaccinated when it’s available to them.


Receiving cancer treatment

If you have cancer, you have a higher risk of getting serious infection if you’re exposed to COVID-19 (as with others who are immunocompromised).

At this stage, there’s no evidence that suggests the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) interacts with cancer treatments.

Discuss the timing of your vaccination with your doctor or specialist. Depending on your treatment, you may be able to time your vaccination appointments between rounds of treatment for the best immune response.

Cancer and COVID-19 vaccines – Te Aho o Te Kahu (Cancer Control Agency)

CT scans and mammograms – vaccine advice


Living with HIV

If you have HIV you’re encouraged to be vaccinated. People with HIV were included in clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty). The data specific to this group is not yet available but showed no safety concerns. 

Based on what we know about people living with HIV and their response to other vaccines:

  • you may have a weaker response to some vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine
  • if you have a suppressed viral load you’re likely to have some protection from the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you’re newly diagnosed and starting HIV treatment, take advice from your specialist about the timing of your vaccination.

Any medication you’re taking for HIV is not expected to change how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is. The vaccine will not affect your HIV medication.​


Taking blood-thinning medication

If you’re on blood-thinning medications or have a bleeding disorder, let your vaccinator know. Because the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) is given intramuscularly (into the arm), this increases the risk of bleeding for some people on these medications.

The vaccine itself doesn’t have an increased risk.


Taking antibiotics

If you’re taking antibiotics you can get the COVID-19 vaccine as long as you’re not feeling significantly unwell from your infection. You may want to talk this through with your doctor.

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