Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – Novavax booster, oral pill, and home cleaning after infection

Doctor Sonya Bennett, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, answers the top 3 questions across our channels.

Date published:
General public

Hello, everyone. I'm Dr Sonya Bennett, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health. I'm here today to answer the top three questions, as provided by you through our social media channels. But before I do that, we often give a shout-out to members in the community involved in COVID. And today, I want to give a shout-out to you. We're in our third year of COVID, it's been very challenging for everybody, and everybody is very tired. But I really want to give a shout-out to yourselves for continuing to seek out factual information where you can through channels such as this social media channel and other websites, so that you have the right information you need to support your decision making.

So, now we'll move to the first question, and the first question for today is, "Will the Novavax vaccine require a booster?" So, we did touch on this a little at the last session, just talking about whether Novavax vaccine can be a booster. So, we'll cover both topics again today. But as many know, a booster dose of the COVID vaccine three months after completion of your primary course with any vaccine really does provide that further protection that's going to be needed through the course of the pandemic. And currently, the expectation is that people who receive their primary course with Novavax vaccine, which was only approved recently on 20 January, will also benefit from having this booster three months after finishing their primary course. But at the moment, it is the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are approved as boosters for eligible people. And we do know that there is interest in understanding whether Novavax will also be approved as a booster. It is currently not approved as a booster, but the TGA will be in discussion and contact with the company that makes Novavax vaccine to continue that process of whether or not Novavax can be approved as a booster in the future. So, I just recommend that when you're due for your booster, you check where that is up to. And if not, Pfizer and Moderna are perfectly safe and acceptable vaccines for a booster.

So, question number two. "I've heard about an oral COVID1-9 pill coming to Australia. "How will these be used?" So, this is a very important question, and it really is a very exciting development in our management of the COVID pandemic. So, the TGA provisionally approved the use of the first oral treatments for COVID-19 in Australia on 20 January as well, and those two treatments will be commonly known as Lagevrio and Paxlovid. So, they're made by different companies, but they are both oral pills. So, the treatments have been found to be effective in preventing progression to severe disease in people who have COVID and have risk factors for progressing to severe disease. So, it's important to talk with your doctor and understand your own risks, and whether you are in that category before you get COVID. So, both are oral antiviral treatments that need a prescription, and they're taken as tablets or capsules every 12 hours for 5 days as soon as possible after your diagnosis and no later than five days. So, if they're taken later than that, then they're not effective, which is why it's important to do two things. Understand your own risk factors, and if you do become unwell, get tested for COVID very early so that if you do have COVID you can access these treatments. So, they've been provisionally approved for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults age 18 and over who do not require oxygen, so are not in hospital on oxygen therapy, and are at increased risk of progression to severe disease. So, the benefit of that means they can be taken by people in their home and intended to prevent people needing to go to hospital with severe disease. So, the Australian Government is working closely with state and territory governments to ensure that approved treatments for COVID get distributed to those most at risk currently. So, right now, as of today, this currently includes people infected in outbreaks in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As we know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be at greater risk of severe disease. And people infected in outbreaks in residential care facilities, as well. Because, as we know, they similarly are at increased risk of progression to severe disease. So, as supply increases, these treatments will become more widely available, and further details on the use of these treatments and how to access them will be provided over the weeks ahead, as supply does become available. So, please keep an eye out for that, and we'll probably cover that as a future topic here in these sessions. They're not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination. This is a very important point. So, vaccination can prevent you getting infected with COVID at all. The treatments are to prevent progression to severe disease if you already are infected in those most at risk. So, vaccinations are really the best way to protect yourself, and continue to protect yourself, against COVID. So, please make sure that you're up to date with your vaccinations, including your booster.

So, the third question is a different topic, but, nonetheless, an important question as well. "Should I get my home professionally cleaned after getting COVID-19?" So, regular cleaning is definitely important in households where somebody has COVID, or even if you're just a contact of a COVID case, just to prevent any sort of contamination of surfaces, should you become infected. So, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread mainly by respiratory droplets and aerosols, generated when people with infection talk, cough or sneeze. And these droplets and aerosols can lead to infection in others who are in close contact with people with COVID. So, either through droplets dropping on the person themselves, or aerosols generated and breathing them in, which is a nice time to just re-stress the importance of mask wearing, when appropriate as well. But these droplets can also contaminate surfaces where other people can then pick up the virus. Although this is a less common route than being in close contact, it is still a pathway for transmission and why regular cleaning, if you've got somebody with COVID at home or you're a contact, is important. So, the virus can be detected for several days on surfaces such as stainless steel, plastic and other surfaces under certain conditions. But just because the virus is detected, which you may have heard about, it doesn't necessarily mean it's infectious, and sunlight and other things can cause the virus not to be infectious even though it has been detected through certain studies. So, professional cleaning isn't necessary. The virus is readily inactivated by just regular cleaning with neutral detergent or whatever you normally use for cleaning in your home. The importance is more, really, about regular cleaning than what you are using. And the Infection Control Expert Group, which advises the AHPPC, has developed a fact sheet guidance for cleaning at home which you can find on, along with a raft of other useful information, should you be looking there.

So, thank you very much for listening today, and your time, and we will see you next session.

Top 3

  1. Will the Novavax vaccine require a booster?
  2. I’ve heard about an oral COVID-19 pill coming to Australia, how will these be used?
  3. Should I have my home professionally cleaned after getting COVID-19?

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