Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions ⁠–⁠ eligibility, mental health and travel into Australia

In this video, Dr Lucas De Toca, First Assistant Secretary of the COVID-19 Primary Care Response, answers the top 3 questions you’ve been asking on our social accounts:

Date published:
General public

Good morning, I'm Dr Lucas de Toca.

Welcome to Top 3.

I lead the Australian governments primary response to COVID-19 and 
I'm pleased today to welcome back James who is providing interpreting 
services so that everyone can follow this video, and we can make sure 
you have crucial information on the vaccines and COVID-19 available, 
how ever way you communicate.

My shout out today goes to everyone to keep their eyes out and pay
attention to the next phase of the COVID Communications campaign
regarding vaccines.

The vaccine rollout continues after last week, we started with the rollout
in phase 1 A, that is people working in quarantine facilities, frontline 
healthcare workers dealing with potential COVID-19 cases and  people in 
residential aged care facilities. 

Tens of thousands of people have already received the first dose of the 
vaccine, which is very exciting, and we're going to move to further
stages of the campaign, providing advice where to get it for the 
different groups who will be eligible to get it in the coming weeks. So 
please keep your eye out for more information.

Today, as usual, we are recording on beautiful Ngunnawal country and on 
a particularly sunny day after a gloomy few weeks.

(Speaks Indigenous language) 

and I also extended that acknowledgement to the traditional owners of the 
lands  where people may be watching from.

Let's begin.

First question.

Do I need to be an Australian resident to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A resounding no. This is very similar to questions we get asked quite 
regularly, including last week. 
The vaccines that the Australian government is making available are 
safe and effective vaccines, and as importantly, they are free to everyone 
in Australia.
If you are on a temporary visa, if you are a refugee, if you are an asylum
seeker, if you're in a detention facility or your visa got cancelled, you're 
an international student, the vaccines will be available to you and will be 
available for free.
You don't have to worry about whether you have a Medicare card or not, 
or whether you can afford it or not. There is a full commitment to
ensuring that these life-saving vaccines, that will ensure you are protected
against severe disease, hospitalisation and even worse, death, 
are available to everyone in Australia regardless of their visa status.

So keep paying attention to the vaccine rollout announcements and the moment 
the vaccine becomes eligible for your age group, occupation or particular set 
of underlying conditions that you may have, we strongly encourage you to get 
the vaccine and it will be available to you for free.

Second question.

What can I do if a family member's mental health has been impacted by the 
COVID-19 pandemic?

It's remarkable, it's already the second of March, which means it has been 
over  a year since we started to have our lives impacted by this virus. 
And we  already had, this time last year, some international travel 
We were starting to talk about lockdown options, and we were rolling out the 
first response measures within the health system.
Which means we have been living with this and the disruption it has brought 
into our lives for over year, and we're all struggling in different ways and 
is important to acknowledge that and be open that it is having an impact on us.

If you notice a family member, or friend who is not themselves, maybe not 
sleeping well, their eating habits have changed, they are turning to alcohol 
or other drugs, or they are just struggling with day-to-day activities, just 
reach  out and have a conversation.
It might not actually be something serious, but it doesn't hurt to ask, "are 
you OK?" And facilitate that open channel so that people can express and seek
help if they need to. There are many ways people can access help.

A very useful one, is if you go to Health Direct on Health, 
there is a symptom  checker where you or your loved ones can input your 
symptoms or the way you are feeling, and it can give you different options for 
care you may receive, depending on the severity of what you are 
presenting with.
It could just advise self-care, but it could also refer you to seek a 
professional or in serious cases, to go to hospital, or call 000.
Health Direct is also available on the phone on 1800 020 080.

If you notice that  a family member, or a friend struggling, or experiencing 
those symptoms for two weeks or more, it might be worth encouraging them to go 
and see a doctor. Your local GP will be able to assist and offer a range of 
options to provide care for your family member's wellbeing.

Please reach out for help and assist others, as we have all been doing over 
the last year, dealing with COVID-19. Help is available, so please don't
be scared to reach out.

And finally, will I need to have the COVID-19 vaccines if I want to come to 

That is a really useful question, and one that a lot of people are asking.
It is useful to clarify a few things that we need to consider in order to 
answer this with all the information.

The first one is that the Australian government does not currently have a way – 
and cannot – assess the quality and the safety and the effectiveness of vaccines 

We know what is happening in our country, because we have the robust processes 
of the Therapeutic Goods Administration as our regulator, but we don't have 
that regulatory power internationally, so we currently don't have a way to assess 
whether people who might have been vaccinated overseas have received a high 
quality, safe and effective vaccine.

The other part of it is we are still not sure whether the vaccines can prevent 
infection. Whether the vaccines can prevent the vaccinated person from 
spreading the disease to others. We know the vaccines are incredibly effective 
at preventing serious disease, and incredibly effective at preventing 
hospitalisation, and incredibly effective at preventing death.
But we need more data about whether the vaccines prevent the disease from being 
transmitted from one person to another. 
There is very promising data emerging from countries that have achieved high 
vaccination coverage in their population and we are constantly assessing that
information to see how it informs our policy domestically.
But we still cannot make conclusive call on whether these vaccines will prevent 
transmission. And as such, we don't know whether someone who is vaccinated may 
or may not be able to import the virus into Australia.

So for the foreseeable future we will continue to have quarantine requirements for 
people returning from overseas.

There's also the requirement, that will remain for the foreseeable future, of 
people getting tested 72 hours prior to their flight, or mode of transport 
into Australia and providing evidence of a negative result before they come into 
the country. Then when they come here, they will have to continue to undertake 
quarantine, hotel quarantine or in a managed quarantine facility as they have for 
a while.

It is likely that as the Australian population becomes vaccinated and we 
understand more about the dynamics around transmission and the vaccines, we might 
change how we manage international arrivals in the future.
And it could be, we are working with other countries to see how it could be done, 
that there is some kind of digital certificate or passport of vaccination or immunity 
that could help inform what particular risk mitigation strategy is applied to a
returned traveller.

But at this stage the best thing we can do is to continue to abide with the 
public health measures that are keeping us safe and enabling us to have as 
normal a life as we can while still in Australia.

We continue to practice our COVIDSafe behaviours in people continuing to adhere
to the quarantine arrangements and getting a negative test before returning.

And as soon as the vaccine becomes available for your group, make sure you get 
it, because the more vaccinated we are, the more protected we will be as a

That is all for today.

Thank you for tuning in.

Thank you, James.
I hope it wasn't too bad, I try to speak a bit slower today.
But it is really important we provide the service.

Continue to stay COVIDSafe and see you next time.

Top 3 questions

  1. Do I need to be an Australian resident to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
  2. What can I do if a family member’s mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
  3. Will I need to have the COVID-19 vaccines if I want to come to Australia?

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