Vaccine advice if you have a health condition

Information about getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you have an underlying health condition or are taking medication.

If you have an underlying health condition

If you have an underlying health condition, it is safe for you to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Participants in the clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines had a range of different ethnicities, ages, sexes and underlying health conditions.

We encourage you to get the vaccination if you have:

  • serious respiratory disease, including chronic lung disease and severe asthma
  • a serious heart condition
  • immunocompromised conditions
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • stroke
  • cancer.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

If you are immunocompromised

If you are immunocompromised, you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

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

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

If you are severely immunocompromised, talk with your doctor or specialist about the timings of your vaccination. You can get the vaccine 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 is available to them.

Third primary dose for severely immunocompromised people

Some people over the age of 5 who are severely immunocompromised are eligible to get a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This extra dose will help give you your best possible protection.

It should be given 8 weeks after the second dose, but may be given 4 weeks after, depending on current or planned immunosuppressive therapies.

The eligibility criteria to get a third primary dose is complex. It only applies to people who are severely immunocompromised.

Your doctor can tell you whether you are eligible for this third primary dose. If you think you might qualify, speak with your doctor or specialist.

How to get a third primary dose

You can only get a third primary dose after seeing your doctor or specialist. They can give you a prescription to take to any vaccination centre.

Appointments with your doctor for a third primary dose are free.

Getting a vaccine booster

Having COVID-19 does not provide the same level of immunity as getting vaccinated. We also know that your protection from the primary course of the vaccine decreases over time.

To keep your immunity levels high, stay up to date with your vaccinations — including boosters. This will lower your chances of getting very sick from COVID-19 and ending up in hospital. 

For boosters, we use the Pfizer BA.4/5 bivalent vaccine. This is an updated vaccine targeting Omicron.

If you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, you are encouraged to get another booster, regardless of how many boosters you have had.

Get your vaccine booster

If you are taking medications

If you take medications regularly for a health condition, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated.

If you are taking medications that suppress your immune system, you should talk to your doctor or specialist about timings of your vaccination.

If you have had an allergic reaction to any vaccine

If you have had a serious or immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injection in the past, discuss this with your doctor or vaccinator.

If you have a history of anaphylaxis

You should talk to your doctor about which vaccine is suitable for you if you have a history of anaphylaxis:

  • to any ingredient in the Pfizer or Novavax vaccine
  • to a previous dose of the Pfizer or Novavax vaccine.

If you are having a CT scan, mammogram or ultrasound after your vaccination

Let the radiographer or doctor know you have recently been vaccinated.

The vaccine can occasionally cause the lymph nodes in your armpit or neck to swell for a few days. This may be seen on the mammogram or ultrasound for up to a few weeks or in a CT scan, including those used to diagnose and check for cancers.

If you need a CT scan, mammogram or ultrasound, you should not delay these appointments. If you have concerns, discuss them with your specialist or radiographer.

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