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 means for your health and that of others will help you feel more confident when you’re eligible. 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 physiotherapist.healthcare 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. Also note that the actual COVID-19 vaccination is free, but appointments to talk about it might not be.
  • 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 all need to be taken in two doses. This means that you have the first shot, wait for several weeks, and then get the second shot. It also means that your immunity develops over time, which you can discuss with your healthcare professional. You should ask questions like:

“What will the process of being vaccinated be like?” Different places are currently offering vaccination – GPs, pop-up clinics, hospitals 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.

“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?” You can check out YACVic’s resources for some general advice about this. However, specific questions about immunity and your personal health conditions should always be discussed with your healthcare professional.

Prepare and ask questions

It’s normal to have questions or concerns about something new, like the COVID-19 vaccines. An appointment with your healthcare professional can help you know what to expect. You can discuss the vaccine that is available to you, and how it might impact your personal health. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what phase you fit into and why, your health professional can also help.

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 vaccination 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 vaccinated?”
  • “What symptoms might I experience after I get vaccinated? 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 vaccinated against COVID-19 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 →