Making health decisions should come from two-way conversations with your healthcare provider, and COVID-19 vaccinations are no different. According to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare, you have the right to have the information you need to make a health-related decision.

For young people, healthcare settings like doctor’s offices can feel like places where you just have to do what you’re told. But you have the right to ask questions, understand and You ‘advocate for yourself’ when you speak up about how you’re feeling to be in control of what happens to you.advocate for yourself. Discussing what getting vaccinated or getting a booster means for your health and that of others will help you feel more confident about it. Let’s have a look at how to do that.

Choose healthcare professional/s you trust

You should speak to a person who you feel understands your personal health and takes what you say seriously. When you are looking for a A healthcare professional is a person who gives you medical advice and care. For example, a doctor, nurse, psychologist or professional, you should consider things like:

  • Location and opening hours
  • Fees and billing: are they a A bulk billing practice is a medical centre that is free if you have a Medicare card.bulk billing practice or a A private practice is a medical centre where you have to pay to see a doctor.private practice? If they are a private practice, in what time periods do their concession fees apply? For example, some places do not offer concession fees after 5pm. Note: actually getting the COVID-19 vaccination is free, but in a private practice, any appointments to talk about the vaccines might not be free.
  • Recommendations from people you trust
  • Whether they offer services for your community or in your language.

A good place to start is going on the website of the medical centre you want to visit. It will normally have a section with the names and profiles of their Clinical staff are people who can give you medical advice and care. They are people like doctors and nurses who have health qualifications.clinical staff. Their profiles will tell you things like:

  • What kinds of health conditions they have expertise in (these are sometimes listed as their ‘special interests’)
  • What kinds of patients they have experience with
  • Their approach
  • Other skills they have – for example, if they speak another language
  • What days they work.

You can consider all these things to find a person that suits your needs, values and schedule. If you are feeling nervous or undecided, you can:

  • Call the medical centre to ask questions about a healthcare professional you are thinking about booking.
  • Book an appointment that suits you – think about if you would you feel more comfortable starting with an in-person or Telehealth is a healthcare appointment over phone or video call. A healthcare provider can give you advice just like they can face-to-face, and it usually costs the same.telehealth appointment.
  • Ask someone you trust to come to the appointment with you.
A doctor and patient in a consultation. Both are smiling.

A doctor and patient in a consultation.

What is the process for getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Australia initially need to be taken in two doses, in what’s called the ‘primary course’. This means that you have the first shot, wait for several weeks, and then get the second shot.

Some immunocompromised people will need three shots in their primary course (different to a booster shot), depending on their health conditions. If you think this might apply to you, it’s important to discuss with your health professional.

After a certain amount of time, you will also need to get booster shots to top up the strength of the primary course. Booster shots also help your body fight new variants of COVID-19.

The vaccinations are scheduled this way because your immunity develops and changes over time, which you might also want to discuss with your healthcare professional. You could ask questions like:

“What will the process of being vaccinated be like?” Different places are currently offering vaccination – GPs, pharmacies, pop-up clinics and state centres are some examples. Depending on where you go, the process might be different. Your healthcare professional can talk you through what it’ll be like so you feel prepared, or check out our guide to different vaccination options.

“How do I book the second vaccination?” This is an important question because different places may organise this differently – just ask the person who administers your vaccine.

“What should I do to protect my immunity and others until I am fully vaccinated?” As a general rule, you should continue following COVID-safe practices like wearing a mask, social distancing, and following the government health restrictions. However, specific questions about immunity and your personal health conditions should always be discussed with your healthcare professional.

Prepare and ask questions

There are regular updates to the COVID-19 vaccine situation, and it’s normal to have questions or concerns. With your healthcare professional, you might like to discuss the vaccine that is available to you, how it will impact your personal health, or when you should get your booster and why.

A useful idea before the appointment is to prepare a list of what you want to talk about. You might be thinking about questions like:

  • “Am I eligible for a booster right now with my current health condition/s?”
  • If you're not eligible yet: “What can I do to protect my health in the meantime?”
  • “What will happen when I get my shot?”
  • “What symptoms might I experience after I get vaccinated (especially if you're getting a vaccine you haven't had before)? What can I do to take care of myself if I experience those symptoms?”
  • “What should I do if I am worried about how my body responds to the vaccine?”
  • “Can I get vaccinated with the medications I am currently taking?”
  • “Can I get my shot if I need to get a different vaccination soon too?”
A nurse putting a bandaid on the arm of a young person. Both are wearing masks.

A nurse putting a bandaid on the arm of a young person.

You’re in charge of your health

A healthcare professional should empower you to give Informed consent is when you have all the information about the benefits and risks of something, before you decide to do it.informed consent. They should tell you all your options for getting vaccinated or not, and explain the benefits and risks of each one. Some phrases that show they are doing this could be:

  • “You get to choose.”
  • “It’s your body.”
  • “What do you feel comfortable with?”
  • “Have a think about it and then let me know.”
  • “This is what might happen if you do get vaccinated, and this is what might happen if you don’t get vaccinated.”
  • “If you can’t get vaccinated, here are some other things we can do to protect your health.”

Next: What to say if you’re unsure →

Last updated: 12 January 2022