Date published: 
16 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, enormously good news is how leading experts are reacting to a COVID-19 vaccine being trailed in the US. Forty-five patients given it have produced more virus-killing antibodies than those who caught the virus.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, joins us now. Professor, thank you for your time today - really appreciate it as always. These numbers coming out of the United States really interesting. Anthony Fauci is confident a vaccine will be available by year's end. Are you as confident?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, this is obviously a very important and frankly exciting first step in the development of this particular vaccine. So seeing that it has been effective in the production of antibodies in the people who have received the vaccine is certainly very encouraging. Of course, there is still a huge amount of work which needs to continue to see how long those antibodies actually remain effective; whether these people are in fact found to be immune to infection with COVID-19. But it is a very encouraging first step. Clearly there are many vaccines under development, both in Australia and around the world, so we obviously encourage all the developments to continue hoping that we do get that vaccine available in the months ahead.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, this one by Moderna in the US, is it the most advanced at the moment? And if it does follow, as the scientists hope it will, is the end of the year feasible?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I think we need to wait and see what happens as the trials continue with this and with the other vaccines which are under development.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

In terms of this cluster in Sydney, I wonder if you can give us some details on this. Because we're hearing the virus is infectious within 24 hours, and for all of us it's news. But for you is that news? Does it indicate the virus is evolving in some kind of way?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I think it is too early to be able to speculate about that. We know that normally the incubation period for the virus is up to five to seven days, but we do know that people can be infectious for a day or two before they actually develop any symptoms. If it was infectious within a day, that does sound that that is unusual, so let's wait and see what comes out over the next couple of days.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay, so that, at this point that is not the information that you're hearing?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Not at this point.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay. What will it take to get community transmission under control? Because we know the Premiers and Prime Minister are not keen on the elimination approach.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Well clearly, the measures which we have under way, both in Victoria and in New South Wales, are the measures which are required to bring community transmission under control - the restriction of movement; the reduction in the ability of people to transmit the virus from one person to another, this of course is behind the restrictions which are currently in place in Melbourne; the extensive testing which is under way, yesterday we had nearly 60,000 tests carried out right across the country; and, of course the extensive contact-tracing, and now with the additional Australian Defence Force personnel supporting the efforts in Victoria contact-tracing will be continuing at an even greater pace than it has before; and, of course all of us continuing to do our part in stopping the spread and of course for people outside the restriction areas as well as within, this means anyone with symptoms staying at home, arranging to get tested.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Community tracing and contact-tracing, it's got away from us a bit, hasn't it?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I think it is absolutely an essential part of the response to COVID-19. The numbers that we've seen in Victoria over the past week, the number of new infections clearly puts an additional strain on the contact tracing capacity. But as I say, that has been significantly boosted with the addition of the ADF personnel.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Professor, more than 30 aged-care homes are now infected across Victoria, there are 108 staff and residents who've tested positive. Should the healthy residents be moved out?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, what we're seeing in the residential aged care facilities, each facility has its own pandemic plan and its response and we need to look at the circumstances in each of those facilities. Some of those that you've alluded to - we've just had a single worker who's been diagnosed but we've had no transmission to other staff or to residents. In other cases, as we've seen, we've had a number of residents who've been infected. The response really depends on the individual nursing home and, of course, on the wishes of the individual residents and their family members.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's such a worry, and we feel - Alli and I have talked about it endlessly during the course of the last couple of weeks - we feel so keenly for workers on the front line. In almost every facility now, including the Children's Hospital in Melbourne now, they've examples of those who have coronavirus. And the worrying thing is, I guess, is that they're getting it through community transmission and then possibly taking it into those facilities. Getting a handle on that is incredibly hard.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, and it is, Karl. And it reinforces the absolutely fundamental messages to everybody, but especially to those people who are working with the most vulnerable people in our society and our residential aged care facilities, in home care, and in our hospitals and general practices and other health facilities across the country - if you have any symptoms no matter how mild, you do not go to work, you stay at home and arrange to get tested. And of course when people are at work that they use the personal protective equipment which is provided to protect themselves and also to protect their patients.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. Professor, thanks for your time as always. We always appreciate it.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Thank you.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you, Karl.

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