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Australians stuck overseas could get their second vaccine dose after return to Australia

How will Australians be able to leave and return from November 1? Source: AAP Image/James Ross

The federal health department says Australians stuck overseas who have taken the first dose of a vaccine that has been approved for use in Australia, could be given the second dose here if they arrive in time for it. When borders reopen, despite proof of vaccination upon arrival, some form of quarantine may still be required.

Australian borders remain closed to overseas travellers as the nation tries to stay on course to keep the COVID-19 pandemic under control. 

Australians stuck overseas, parents of migrants, tourists and working holiday-makers are among thousands of people desperately waiting for the green light to travel to Australia. 


Highlights

  • Australians stuck overseas can take first dose of approved vaccine before entering the country
  • COVID vaccine proof may not mean quarantine-free movement after reaching Australia
  • Australians stuck overseas, parents of migrants, tourists, working holiday-makers keen to travel to Australia

Although vaccine rollouts across the globe continue to face teething troubles, they give hope to those keen to undertake international travel soon. However, people are unsure which vaccine will turn out to be their boarding pass to Australia.

According to the Department of Health website, the domestic COVID-19 vaccine rollout does not extend to Australian citizens while overseas.

India's nationwide vaccination program kicked off last week.
India's nationwide vaccination programme kicked off recently.
Sipa USA Ashish Vaishnav / SOPA Images/Si

Dhanya Shree, an Australian permanent resident who is currently stranded in India and is working as a dentist in Kerala, one of India’s southernmost states, aims to return to Australia as soon as borders reopen. 

“Various vaccines are available in India but I want to make sure that I get the one that is approved by Australia,” she told SBS Malayalam over the phone.

This is a concern shared by many Australians currently stuck overseas as well as others keen to travel to Australia.

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Dhanya Shree and family are eagerly looking forward to come back to Australia when borders reopen.
Dhanya Shree

Choice of COVID vaccine

The federal health department has not taken a formal decision on this matter yet.

''Regarding entry from other countries, while no formal decision has been made, the Government's expectation would be that whilst COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat to public health globally and within Australia, people coming to Australia will be required to undertake appropriate risk mitigations, which may include quarantine or vaccination, to minimise the risk to the community,” an official in the Department of Health told SBS Malayalam.

''At this time, there is insufficient evidence to determine that a COVID-19 vaccination prevents transmission of the virus'', the official added.

While advice for tourists may still be unclear, but for Australian citizens and permanent residents stuck overseas, the contours of the completion of their vaccination upon returning home have begun to emerge.

''Australians who have taken the first dose of the vaccine overseas (a vaccine that is approved in Australia, i.e. the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine), could get the second dose in Australia if they arrive before the time of the second dose. Individuals require two doses of the same vaccine administered three weeks apart for the Pfizer vaccine and 12 weeks apart for the AstraZeneca vaccine'', the department added.

However, taking the jab may not necessarily mean quarantine-free movement upon reaching Australia.

Quarantine despite vaccine?

''Australia will require some form of quarantine in the near term even if proof of vaccination is provided. Vaccination is not viewed as a panacea or a complete substitute for other public health interventions; it is viewed as supplementary to other measures'', the department official elaborated.

The Australian health department has urged Australians stuck overseas to consult their local health professional for advice on the options that may be available locally. The Australian Government cannot provide advice on the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines that have been approved for use outside of Australia’s regulatory process, the department added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a vial of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine during a visit to the CSL lab in Parkville, Melbourne.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a vial of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine during a visit to the CSL lab in Melbourne.
AAP

The health department also advised that due to the cold chain management requirements, the Pfizer vaccine is only available at selected hospitals, therefore, if an individual requires a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, they will need to liaise with their jurisdiction.

''From next week, doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be available at thousands of general practices as well as GP-led respiratory clinics across Australia. Individuals requiring a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to access it from one of these sites'', the department said. 

The Australian Government says it is considering mechanisms for recognising an international digital immunisation certificate for COVID-19. The health department says that it has to consider several factors to ensure that this is implemented safely and effectively.  

Family matters

Many Australian migrants who have been separated from their parents due to Australia’s border closure, are amongst those seeking answers to questions regarding the vaccination programmes in their homeland.

Aneesh Chacko, an Adelaide Malayalee, recently got his mother vaccinated in Kerala, hoping to reunite with her as soon as Australia lets her in.

 

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Getty Images

''We thought that most countries will have the COVID vaccination as a prerequisite for travel, which we didn’t want to miss out on. My mother got the first dose of the Covishield vaccine (as the AstraZeneca vaccine is known in India) in Kerala and we want to bring her to Australia as soon as borders reopen,” said Mr Chacko.

Information regarding COVID-19 vaccination for Australians who are currently overseas is available here.

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