Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – Vaccine wait times, eligibility, and new variant susceptibility
In this video, Dr Lucas de Toca answers the top 3 questions you’ve been asking this week on our social accounts.
Good morning. I am Doctor Lucas de Toca and I lead the Department of Health's COVID-19 Primary Care Response. Welcome to Top Three. Today I'm, once again, joined by Linda who will be doing Auslan interpreting. Thank you Linda. My shout out goes to the health workers all across Australia that are working in COVID-19 assessment and testing centres. It is through their tireless work and that of pathology technicians and pathology experts in that pathology labs that we can actually identify community transmission and get on top of any cluster before it becomes a major outbreak. Thank you for everyone working in Covid testing and thank you for everyone who’s actually getting tested. As usual are on the land of the Ngunnawal people. Dhawra nhuna, dhawra Ngunawal. Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny balan bugarabang. First question. Where can I get credible information about potential COVID-19 vaccine wait times? The best way to get information on where to get your vaccine, potential waiting time and to make appointments directly, is to go to the online Vaccine Clinic Finder and Eligibility Checker on health.gov.au. The online Eligibility Checker and Vaccine Clinic Finder allows you to check whether, quite obviously, you are eligible for the vaccine, and if you are not eligible, it allows you to register your interest so that you get a notification when you become eligible as the eligibility changes, and also if eligible allows you to see a list of clinics nearby you where you can sort by proximity to your location or by available appointments and you can directly book through the online appointment system if they have so or just making a phone call to place an appointment. There is a little toggle that allows you to switch between showing the clinics that are closest to you and showing the clinics that are closest to you but have their earliest available appointment which is a really useful feature, and that way you can see which clinics have the vaccine and which ones have appointments near you. If you can’t or don't want to go online, you can also get that information in the National Coronavirus Information Helpline on 1800 020 080. And they have access to the Eligibility Checker and the Vaccine Clinic Finder so you can get the same information over the phone. Second question. Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am over 50 now that people who are 40 years and over are eligible? Absolutely. When eligibility for the vaccine changes, and as it’s happened this week, now everyone 40 years and over from today is eligible everywhere in Australia to get a vaccine, that doesn't mean people who were previously eligible stop being eligible. We’ve just opened up eligibility to anyone between 40 and 49 but people 50 years and over continue to be eligible as they were before. People 50 years and over are recommended to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, and people under 50 are recommended to get the Pfizer vaccine, but anyone 40 years and over is eligible to get the vaccine now and can do so by going to the Vaccine Clinic Finder on the Department of Health's website or through the Coronavirus Helpline. In many cases they’ve been proactively reached out by the GP to offer an appointment. Remember, in addition to anyone 40 years and over, younger people, 16 years and over, are still eligible if they are in one eligibility categories in phase 1. So all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 16 years and over, people in health care, aged, disability and other critical and emergency occupations, and people with underlying conditions and a series of chronic conditions and any NDIS participant who is 16 years and over, including any carer of an NDIS participant if the carer is 16 years and over. So really wide eligibility for a lot of people and all the information as usual on health.gov.au. And finally, are certain groups of people, such as children, more susceptible to new variants of COVID-19? When we talk about variance, we talk about the virus changing. Mutation just means change, and every virus when it replicates, when it divides and create copies of itself, has a chance of making an error in that replication and, as part of that error, mutation emerges. Most mutations go away or are selected out because they break the virus and don't allow the virus to continue to grow, but some mutations confer the virus, what’s called an advantage, and it might then be selected and a new variant of the virus emerges. That happens with all viruses as part of evolution and the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is no exception. At the moment the significant numbers of circulating virus, high levels of circulating virus across the world, which means there are lots of replication events, which means the likelihood of mutation is high and that’s what we are seeing, a number of variants emerging throughout the world. What the mutations in those variants mean and what impact they have in transmission, severity and how it reacts with your immune system, it’s still being understood. It seems like some variants have an impact on increasing the risk of transmission, they are more infectious, they have a higher chance of being spread onto others, but it isn’t clear whether any of these variants actually cause more severe disease. It doesn't seem to be the case. We are observing that during the first wave in Europe, in the US and other countries that experience very significant first waves, adult infection was way more common than infection in younger people. And what we are seeing in the UK now is that with the infections they have at the moment where the so-called Delta variant, or variant B1.617.1 is very common at the moment, the infection seems to be happening at a higher rate in children than it did before. It is still predominantly adults but we are seeing more children getting infected than before. So public health authorities are still investigating whether that is something that is a natural thing of the virus in its current version or whether it’s actually triggered by other circumstances like the fact that a significant number of adults in the UK have either had the virus or been vaccinated, so there’s still emerging information, however it does not seem that the Delta variant, or B1617, has a higher risk of creating, generating severe disease or that the disease caused in children is any different. With this variant, as with any other variant of COVID-19, the older person is the higher the likelihood of severe disease is. And that is why it is so important that in Australia, wherever you are, if a vaccine is available for you and you are eligible to get it, we strongly recommend that you get it because the vaccines are very effective at protecting from that severe disease, from ending up in hospital or even from dying from COVID-19. Only through vaccination and public health measures, like the ones we’ve been doing over the last year and a bit, movement restrictions when public health authorities impose lockdowns, physical distancing, good hand hygiene and of course, isolating and getting the test if you have symptoms, no matter how mild they are, are the best ways to control the circulation of the virus, making sure that there’s not a lot of replication happening and reducing the likelihood of new variants emerging. That's all for today. Thank you so much for watching. Thank you for staying CovidSafe and see you next time.
Top 3 questions
- Where can I get credible information about potential COVID-19 vaccine wait times?
- Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am over 50 now that people who are 40 years and over are eligible?
- Are certain groups of people, such as children, more susceptible to new variants of COVID-19?