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31 Mar 2021

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty receives COVID-19 vaccine

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, Patron and Namesake of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), and his wife Penny received their COVID-19 vaccines at the University of Melbourne Health Service this morning as part of the phase 1b rollout in Victoria.


Professor Doherty said it felt great to get the vaccine.

“I didn't hurt. I barely felt it!” he said.

“I'm imagining that I can feel the vaccine going into my lymph nodes, where the immune response is going on; I've got a vivid imagination.”

Professor Doherty shared the Nobel Prize with Rolf Zinkernagel for their discoveries about transplantation and “killer” T cell-mediated immunity and has worked in the field of immunology for over 50 years.

After his vaccine, he said he suspected he’d have a sore arm in the next 24 to 48 hours.

“I may be a bit nauseas, a bit dizzy, even headachy. These are the sort of things that you get with the beginning of an immune response. So I won't be upset if that happens, because it'll mean that the immune response is going on. Of course I won't be upset if it doesn't happen!” he said.

Early on in the pandemic, Professor Doherty predicted vaccines for COVID-19 would be rolled out within a year.

“We've been watching the vaccine rollout in the United States and I think it's something like a third of the American population that have now had one shot of vaccine. The Brits and Israel have also been rolling it out very fast and infection rates have dropped dramatically in these countries.

“The evidence we have on the two vaccines we’re rolling out in Australia – AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech – are that they’re working about the same. They're preventing severe illness and people aren’t dying, so what could be better?”

Professor Doherty will return to the University of Melbourne Health Service in 12 weeks to get his second, booster COVID-19 vaccine and has a message for those feeling hesitant:

“Go and get the vaccine. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's not painful and it's very unlikely you'll have any side effects.

“The vaccines have been well-tested and have been given to millions of people now. The more people are vaccinated, the less governments will need to lock down.”

Professor Doherty is the author of several lay books on science, with his newest, Plague, An Insider’s Year, to be released in July this year.