While Australia has questioned the efficacy of the Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik V vaccines, currently in use in India, it has not issued any advice for those who have received a vaccine currently not approved for use here. This has sparked uncertainty amongst those Australians who have taken one dose overseas.
Australian citizen Romit Saharan took his first dose of Covishield, the Indian-made version of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria, before arriving in Australia on 30 May.
Mr Saharan, like many other Australian citizens and permanent residents who have taken their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in India, remains uncertain about his second dose after returning to Australia.
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“My GP said he can’t advise me on the second dose and asked me to contact the COVID-19 helpline. I called the helpline on 5 July, and they said they don’t have any information or guidelines for me,” Mr Saharan told SBS Hindi.
“The person who answered the helpline said I will receive a call within a week. I’m still waiting,” he added.
Mr Saharan said he fears mixing different vaccines as Australia currently only administers Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
“There is no clarity whether Covishield, the Indian-made version of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria jab, is similar to the AstraZeneca given here. I heard Australia had a few cases of blood-clotting involving AstraZeneca vaccines,” Mr Saharan said.
Responding to a query from SBS Hindi, the Department of Health stated that Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V – vaccines currently being administered in India to protect against COVID-19 – are not approved for use in Australia.
“The effectiveness of vaccines not approved for use in Australia and their role in preventing disease and transmission is not yet known. To date, these vaccines have not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use in the Australian context,” the department told SBS Hindi in an emailed response.
The Department has advised residents to contact their original vaccination provider about the details of the vaccine they have been given.
“Please check the information you received from your original vaccination provider about how many doses are required for that vaccine. Some vaccines only require one dose.
“If you need a second dose of a vaccine that is not available in Australia, please consult a health professional about your options. You should take evidence of your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine when you attend your appointment,” the statement added.
Health officials, including general practitioners, told SBS Hindi that many people who had taken their first jab overseas, have approached them seeking advice on their second dose, but they have not received any directive from health authorities.
Melbourne-based general practitioner Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said he has seen many patients who had received their first jab in India and are now waiting for their second after returning to Australia.
“For those who had no post-jab complications after the first dose, we advise them to take the AstraZeneca vaccine as their second jab here in Australia. The second dose is very safe and they don’t need the third dose at this time,” Dr Haikerwal explained.
“However, we don’t have any guidelines from the federal or other health authorities about the long-term standing of vaccines not approved in Australia. But the WHO has provided emergency approval to vaccines and many nations have accepted that,” he added.
Responding to SBS Hindi's query, the department admitted that it has not issued any clinical advice to healthcare professionals for individuals who have received one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine currently not registered in Australia.
“As clinical evidence emerges, further guidance will be provided. There is no advice that individuals who have completed a course of a COVID-19 vaccine should be offered a second course of a different COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether the vaccine they have received is registered in Australia.
“Information related to the safety and efficacy of vaccines provided both overseas and in Australia continues to emerge. Considerations around the need for re-vaccination of individuals [who have been] provided vaccines overseas are currently underway,” the spokesperson stated.
The Department of Health also said that Australian residents will only get a digital certificate for the doses administered in Australia.
“You can get a COVID-19 digital certificate after you’ve had all required COVID-19 vaccine doses in the required timeframe. The digital certificate only shows COVID-19 vaccines as approved for use in Australia.
“Your vaccination provider needs to report your vaccination information to the AIR before you can get a digital certificate,” it said in the emailed statement.
AIR, the Australian Immunisation Register, is a national database of all people vaccinated in Australia.