Moderna’s Spikevax is the latest shot to take part in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
After being approved by Australia’s National Medical Surveillance Authority in August, Moderna is now available to Australians aged 12 and over at participating pharmacies and state vaccination centers.
As the new baby on the block, you may not know too much about this vaccine.
Anthony Tassone, president of the Victoria’s Pharmacy Guild and one of the clinics administering Moderna, answers some of your questions.
What is it?
Moderna is an mRNA vaccination similar to the Pfizer jab.
This type of vaccine uses genetic code to help your body’s cells make a spike protein specific for coronavirus.
Mr Tassone compares the genetic code to a recipe that tells your body ‘here are the instructions, this is what you need to do to defend yourself against COVID if you ever come in contact with it’.
For best protection, it is recommended that you have two doses of the Moderna vaccine at least four weeks apart.
How effective is Moderna?
After two doses, Moderna has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization.
Tassone says it may be a little better than the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“There has been some data from the United States about the Moderna vaccine, which may have slightly higher efficiencies to reduce the rate of serious infection and hospitalization against the Delta variant,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Whatever vaccine you end up getting, Mr Tassone says they are all “really effective and really safe”.
I’m over 60 and worried about getting AstraZeneca. Can I get Moderna instead?
Last month, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that Australians aged 60 and over can access both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, no matter where they live.
So if you are over 60 and want to get Moderna from a local pharmacy, it is not necessary to get a referral from a doctor.
Walk-up vaccinations may be available. But if you do not want to wait, Tassone recommends making an appointment.
I have had two shots of another vaccine, can I get Moderna as a booster?
For most people not yet.
The questions of who needs booster shots and when to get them are currently being investigated by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (also known as ATAGI).
On Friday, they announced that people who are highly immunocompromised would be eligible for a booster shot from next week – with Pfizer and Moderna the preferred vaccines.
They have not yet given any recommendations on third doses to the general population, so keep an eye on this space.
What are the possible side effects?
Sir. Tassone says “most people do not get side effects” after Moderna, and if you do “they are usually mild and temporary”.
Common side effects may include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, or fever.
Some people may experience nausea or vomiting, swelling near the injection site or enlarged lymph nodes – but these side effects are less common.
If you feel really unwell after your vaccination, it is best to contact your doctor.
I have heard that Sweden and Denmark have put Moderna on pause for young people – should I be worried?
Mr Tassone does not think so.
A very rare side effect called myocarditis or swelling of the heart is what caused some Nordic countries to stop using Moderna for younger people.
After delivering almost 200,000 doses of Moderna, no cases of myocarditis caused by the vaccine have been reported in Australia.
“What we have seen with international evidence is that the incidence of side effects from Moderna has been very similar to Pfizer,” he says.
“They are very safe, very effective vaccines, and the side effects that caused the temporary break in use in Sweden and Denmark are very rare.”
If someone gets myocarditis after receiving the Moderna vaccine, the condition can be treated – most cases have only mild symptoms and get a good recovery.
Victoria’s acting health officer Ben Cowie added that you are “much more likely to actually get that side effect if you get COVID-19” than from the vaccine — another reason not to hesitate before rolling up your sleeve.