Find out about the AstraZeneca vaccine and how you can get vaccinated.
About the AstraZeneca vaccine
The main vaccine being used in New Zealand is the Pfizer vaccine.
However, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is available for anyone aged 18 years and older who either wants a different option or cannot get the Pfizer vaccine.
It is a is a viral vector vaccine. There is no live SARS-CoV-2 virus in the vaccine, so it is impossible to get COVID-19 from this vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine needs 2 doses. You will need to wait at least 4 weeks before getting your second dose. To have the best protection, you need to get both doses of the vaccine.
It is free and is available to everyone in New Zealand.
Getting your AstraZeneca vaccine
You can book to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine through Book My Vaccine or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26.
Book My Vaccine will show a list of vaccination centres where AstraZeneca is available.
You should not get the AstraZeneca vaccine if you:
- have had a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine or its ingredients
- have had a major blood clot at the same time as having low levels of platelets (thrombocytopenia) after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine
- have had Capillary Leak Syndrome (CLS – a condition causing fluid leakage from small blood vessels).
The AstraZeneca vaccine is injected into a muscle (usually in the upper arm). The second injection can be given between 4 and 12 weeks after the first injection. If you get AstraZeneca for the first dose, then you should also get it for the second dose.
You will need to stay for at least 15 minutes after your vaccination so we can make sure you are okay.
3 months after you receive your second dose, you will be eligible for a booster dose.
There is insufficient data on the use of AstraZeneca in pregnant people, so Pfizer remains the preferred choice of vaccine for this group.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you think you may be pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is suitable for you.
How the AstraZeneca vaccine works
The AstraZeneca vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system. It causes the body to produce antibodies to help fight the virus. This will help to protect you against COVID-19 in the future. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID-19.
How we know the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective
COVID-19 vaccines are already the most well-studied vaccines ever made.
In the clinical trials, the AstraZeneca vaccine gave 81% protection against the symptoms of COVID-19. It also shows at least 80% effectiveness against hospital admission after a single dose. For the best protection, you need 2 doses.
How we check the safety of vaccines used
Medsafe is New Zealand’s medicines safety authority. It checks applications for all new medicines, including vaccines, to make sure they meet international standards and local requirements. It will recommend that a medicine is approved for use in New Zealand only if it meets these standards.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been thoroughly assessed for safety by Medsafe. There have been no shortcuts taken in granting approval. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been used successfully by millions worldwide.
Like all medicines, you might experience some mild side effects in the days after getting your vaccination. This is common, and it is a sign that your body is learning to fight the virus.
Most side effects do not last long and will not stop you from having a second dose or going about your daily life. Some side effects may temporarily affect your ability to drive or use machinery.
The most common reported reactions are:
- pain or swelling at the injection site
- feeling tired or fatigued
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- redness at the injection site
Some side effects are more common after the second dose.
Serious side effects
There are some side effects that are very rare but are more serious.
Blood clots are a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has occurred in around 1 in 100,000 people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- leg swelling
- pain in arms or legs
- severe or persistent headache
- blurred vision
- confusion or seizures (fits)
- abdominal pain.
Very rare cases of Capillary Leak Syndrome (CLS) have been reported. The symptoms of this condition include rapid swelling of the arms and legs, sudden weight gain and feeling faint.
Very rare cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) have also been reported. GBS is a rare immune disorder that causes nerve inflammation. Symptoms may include pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the arms and legs which may progress to the chest and face.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Reporting side effects
You can report any side effects to CARM, The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring. CARM is a database of information about adverse reactions (side effects) to medicines and vaccines in New Zealand.
Proving you have been vaccinated
My Covid Record is a website that allows you to check your COVID-19 vaccination record. Through this website, you can request:
- My Vaccine Pass – an official record of your COVID-19 vaccination status for use in Aotearoa New Zealand
- an International Travel Vaccination Certificate – to prove your vaccination status overseas.