Department of Health virtual meeting for people with disability, their families and carers – 5 August 2021

The purpose of the meeting was to answer questions from people with disability, their families and carers about the COVID-19 vaccination program. Professor (Practice) Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer chaired the discussion.


Moderator: Professor Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Department of Health


Dr Steph Davis, Medical officer, Department of Health

Grace Edward, Refugee Health Network Queensland

Chris Faulkner, COVID Vaccine Taskforce for Disability

[The visuals during this webinar are of each speaker presenting via video]

Professor Alison McMillan:

Good morning everyone. My name is Alison McMillan. I'm the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer here in the Department of Health, and I’m going to be your MC for today.

Just first, firstly if I can acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, who are the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which I meet with you today, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. And I extend my acknowledgment and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are viewing our webinar today.

The purpose of the meeting is to answer questions around the COVID-19 vaccine program. The meeting is being recorded and will be published on the Departmental website. We will be taking questions in the Chat. You will find the Chat on the bottom right-hand corner. Put your questions in there and we will try to get to as many questions as we can during this hour. For those who require it, you can also see our fabulous Auslan interpreter who’s joined the meeting today. If you’d like to view the interpreter on your screen, if you hover your mouse over the interpreter's screen and click the three dots in the top right corner and select "Move to stage", you will be able to see the Auslan interpreter on the screen.

Good. These are always tricky to do. We’ve got 163 people on this already today. We're going up quickly to even more. So there are we all know, and we’ve done this for so long now, some rules and things that we need to do. So when not speaking, please make sure you're on mute. Use the raising of the hand system on Webex, and I will try to get, if we can, to questions. But mostly really what we’re wanting is for you to put the questions in the Chat rather than using the verbal, because that just means we can move quicker through the process.

We’ve got a panel with us today. So we’ve got Dr Steph Davis, who is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer here in the Department of Health. We’ve got Chris Faulkner, Assistant Secretary to the COVID Vaccine Taskforce for Disability. And Grace Edward. So I’m going to go to Steph first and just let Steph introduce herself for a few moments. So Steph, would you just like to say hello and tell people a little bit about who you are?

Dr Steph Davis:

Thanks Alison. Sorry. I was having a bit of trouble with my mute button there. So I’m Steph Davis. I'm a GP. I’m also a public health physician and medical epidemiologist. Really thrilled to be at this meeting, as it’s such an important topic. My role in the Department is really around providing medical and health advice, particularly around COVID, and that’s across the whole range of activities related to COVID, so outbreak response and surveillance and a bit about vaccines as well. So thanks very much.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks for that Steph. I’ll go next to Chris Faulkner, and she’s going to just say hello.

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison. My name’s Chris Faulkner, and as Alison just said, I’m part of the team here to help the rollout for people with a disability achieve their vaccination opportunities as we go forward with this rollout. Thanks very much Alison.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Chris. We’ve got to move between mutes and unmutes here, so it’s a bit tricky. And last but by no means least, I’d like to introduce Ms Grace Edward, and ask Grace just to talk a little bit about her role in Refugee Health Network Queensland. So good morning Grace.

Grace Edward:

Hi everyone. My name is Grace Edward, and I work for Refugee Health Network as a partnership and community engagement officer for a CALD COVID-19 project here in Brisbane, Queensland. My role is really about being on the ground with community and sharing information about the vaccine or any lockdown or restrictions that we may have with the current pandemic, and also working closely with Queensland Health to ensure that the resources that are shared are in language or audio and accessible for communities from CALD backgrounds.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Grace, and thanks for joining us today. I’m going to give a little bit of an overview first, and then we’ve got some – we’ll start answering some of the questions, and each of the panel members I’ll go to to ask them if they can respond to some of the questions. But we’ll just give an overview first so that we’re all on the same page.

So again, thank you to everyone, now all 240 of you, who are on this Webex this morning. Obviously the Australian Government of course is committed to delivering a safe and effective vaccine to everyone in Australia. The vaccine is voluntary, and it is very, very strongly encouraged that everyone get vaccinated. We know that getting vaccinated is a very safe and effective way of protecting you, but also your family, from severe disease and death as a result of COVID. And I know you’ve all heard this over and over again in recent times, but it’s really important for us to reiterate this. These vaccines are highly, highly effective at protecting you from severe disease and death, and we’re seeing that roll out now in all of these outbreaks across the country. Those people who’ve been fully vaccinated are not ending up in hospital and not ending up in intensive care. The vaccine is free to everyone also. So it’s free to everyone, and we’re encouraging everyone to get vaccinated when their turn comes, and for many people on this webinar, that is now.

We’ll hear a person’s story about vaccine experience, and invite others on the system to share their lived experience.

Many of the people with disabilities participating today will be part of the 1B outreach program. So that’s the program that is aimed at getting this vaccine to those most vulnerable.

And in this phase, access can be achieved through the vaccine clinics in the states and territories, through GP vaccination clinics, through general practice respiratory clinics as they were called, through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and now of course we’re including local pharmacies. So there are a lot of places where the vaccine can be accessed. And also as I understand, and Chris will talk a little bit perhaps more about this, some work in doing in‑reach in some disability facilities so that we can get to everyone as quickly as we can.

We know at the moment it’s winter and we’ve got outbreaks in a number of places, and so the recent advice has changed somewhat, and I know for many people this constant changing of advice can be challenging. But as we see outbreaks, it does change the risk profile, and so ATAGI will continue – ATAGI are the expert group, and they will continue to provide updated advice to the community about when and how and why they should access the vaccine. So the important thing is, if you’re not sure, there are many, many places where you can obtain advice about the vaccine and what the vaccine means for you and your circumstances, those you care for, those family members who are a part of your family group, so that you can get the best advice for you and your family to keep them protected from COVID. Because we do know that of course COVID is a very severe disease, and as we’ve seen in recent deaths, can have catastrophic outcomes for the people who are not vaccinated.

Importantly, your GP is available to talk to you about the vaccine and which vaccine is suitable for you. The booking program, which is online, called the Vaccine Eligibility Checker at, will help also walk you through your eligibility and also will help you find a booking on the system so you can get your vaccine, or your family member or those you care for can get the vaccine. If you don’t want to use the internet, then there’s also a helpline, 1800 020 080.

I’d now like to welcome Grace, and ask her to speak about her vaccine experience, and then our panel will be taking questions. So Grace, hopefully the unmute button is going to work this time for you, and I’m going to mute myself.

Grace Edward:

Thank you. Yes. I have been fully vaccinated. So I’m a young person with a disability from a CALD background, and I work in the health system here in Queensland. I’ve received both doses of my Pfizer vaccine. And one of the reasons why I made this decision for myself to go and get the vaccine is because I wanted to protect my family and my loved ones and my community, and also all the nurses and the doctors who work at the hospital that I work at, to ensure that if they are seeing patients that they are not at risk of also passing on the virus to them if they do come in contact with it.

So that’s why I really wanted to get the vaccine, and the other reason is also because I was born in a country where vaccines aren’t available at the moment, because they’re not financially able to get them. And I am hearing stories of family members back home who are being affected by the virus.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Grace, we heard you up until you were talking about people from your homeland, from where you came from, having difficulty accessing the vaccine.

Grace Edward:

Yes. Thank you. So because of that reason, because people back home were having trouble accessing vaccines, I felt that it was really important for me to get the vaccine here, because the virus is serious and it is affecting a lot of people in the world. There are a lot of people who are passing away from this, or aren’t privileged enough to have vaccines where they are. When I received my email from Queensland Health to register for my first dose of Pfizer, I went through the booking system. It was a bit difficult, and there were questions on there that even I couldn’t understand, asking about medical conditions that I wasn’t sure of. So I did a little Google search of each one to make sure when I was answering that question I was answering it correctly.

So after going through the booking process, I was then taken to another web page where I could type in my postcode and pick a clinic or hospital close to me to get the vaccine. And after doing that, I was booked in for an appointment, and I went on that day to get my first dose of Pfizer. After the first dose, I felt a little bit of swelling in my upper arm area where I received the injection. It was a bit sore and a bit swollen for a couple of days, but after a while the swelling went down. And then I went in the waiting area for 15 minutes for observation before going home as well. And my second dose was also really – the reactions to it were similar to the first dose. Just a bit of swelling and soreness where I received it. I didn’t get any headaches or any soreness anywhere else. And yeah, after a few days the swelling went down and I was able to continue. Yeah.

What I would say about the booking process is a bit difficult.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Okay. I’ve written that down Grace, because I will go and look at that again if the booking process was a bit of a challenge. Now I can see that we’ve got lots and lots of questions coming in to the system, so we’re going to go – I’m just checking with the team. We’re going to go to the questions? Okay. So the first question is to Chris Faulkner, and it’s from Harlan.

Q:        Is there any provision for people with disabilities for in-home vaccination facility?

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison, and good question. Let me clarify how the rollout will occur for this cohort. As you would have been aware, and I’ve seen on the Chat there, that Phase 1A was given a priority to be vaccinated. Phase 1A are the people living in residential settings, two or more people in those residential settings. They were the first phase and priority for being vaccinated. I’ve seen some frustration in the Chat there about the length of time taken to do this, and acknowledge and appreciate that frustration. But I can reassure you that we are moving very quickly at the moment, and the national average there is over 60% have been vaccinated, and there are some higher rates in different jurisdictions compared to other jurisdictions. So we are working very hard with our vaccination providers to do that work, and the choices are either those providers come in to those residential homes to do vaccinations, or there are a number of what we call hubs around the country working with our disability providers, enabling staff and participants and carers to be vaccinated there. So that is an ongoing rolling program that we’re doing at the moment.

I note the comments there about Phase 1B, and Phase 1B are those that are all NDIA participants, those carers that are both paid and unpaid carers, and family members. Those vaccination opportunities or ability to go to are through either what we call our Commonwealth vaccination centres, your GPs, state and territory hubs, and decisions made by Government has said that they are given a priority when they show up at those places to be vaccinated. The Phase 1A is a Commonwealth responsibility here, where we are working with people, as I said, in disability residential settings to do that. I notice some comments there about wanting in-reach to the family home. We understand that there are some people that are struggling to get out of the home to go and be vaccinated at these other places, and we are trying to identify a way that we can do that for individuals, and we will come back with some further information on our communication channels to do that.

The other question, I might just take it now if that’s all right Alison, on the Chat, is there’s – I just want to be very clear that this forum is for people with a disability and their families and carers. I note that there’s a number of providers with questions there, and I’m happy to take those questions offline and come back to you with those answers, unless there’s time at the end of this forum of course. But this forum is specifically for people with a disability, families and carers to answer.

There’s questions there about the recent announcement of vaccination for children between 12 and 15. ATAGI has given that advice out, and I’ll probably go to my other colleagues here, Steph or Alison, to answer that. But just in this vaccination rollout, please note that it was for people with an underlying health condition, and I can see some conversations there about severe autism and anxiety. And so we will make sure our hubs and state hubs will be accessible for this cohort. If that’s all right Alison or Steph, to that question on the unders.

 Professor Alison McMillan:

So Steph, I’m going to ask this question of you. The question is:

Q:        Is it anticipated that children with severe disabilities under the age of 12 will become eligible for a COVID vaccination? If so, roughly when?

Dr Steph Davis:

Look, it’s a really good question. At the moment, no children under 12 are eligible for a COVID vaccination, and the vaccine is not licenced for children under the age of 12. And my understanding is that’s worldwide, not just in Australia. So the issue is that the COVID vaccines were developed for adults, because adults are generally the people who get the most sick and get severe illness and die from COVID much more so than children.

Now the vaccines, as I’m sure everyone is aware, have recently been licenced, or approved rather, by the TGA for those aged 12 to 15, and ATAGI has recently made a recommendation for young people in that age group who have severe conditions that will put them at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID to get those vaccines. And one of the reasons it’s easier to get these vaccines approved for people within the 12 to 15 age groups is that physiologically, so how our bodies work, 12 to 15 year olds are more similar to adults than a child of say five or six or even younger. So Pfizer is conducting large studies around the world looking at vaccines in younger children. I believe, and I haven’t seen them directly, but I believe the evidence from those is that the vaccines are safe in that age group and probably effective, however the evidence isn’t enough yet to licence those vaccines.

In terms of when that will happen, I mean that’s the multi-million dollar question. I don’t know I can give an answer to that at the moment, but I think it will be something which the TGA is keenly watching, and ATAGI will be as well.

I hope that answers that question.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thank you for that Steph. Thank you. Okay. The next question is for Chris.

Q:        Why is it that household members that are working with their disabled family members every day can’t get vaccinated?

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison. So I think as I mentioned before, household members, if they’re informal carers, unpaid carers, can be vaccinated and able to book in at the vaccination hubs that are around the country, as has been – I think we’ve got those directions that will come up in the Chat and online after this. So you can be vaccinated. If there are opportunities with our commercial providers I’m calling them. But Aspen and HCA as you would know them, if they are again living in a SIL arrangement, you can be vaccinated alongside of those in a SIL arrangement. Thanks Alison.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Chris. I’m going to give Chris a rest for a moment and I’m going to go back to Steph. Steph, this is a question from Bobby.

Q:        Can you please advise the approved legal status of this vaccine and explain the term ‘experimental’? Can you also advise the full list of the contents of the vaccine I’m about to receive, and if any of them are toxic to the body?

Now Bobby, we’re not in a position to list all of the contents of those vaccines. A lot of this information is available to you on the Department of Health website. But I’m going to ask Steph, Steph would you be happy just to talk about the process by which in Australia – the rigorous process that is gone through to ensure that the vaccines are safe, and to be clear for Bobby that this is not experimental?

Dr Steph Davis:

Yeah. Thanks for that question. So I think a lot of – and I see this in my own patients as a GP. A lot of the concern – and it’s justifiable – around vaccines, of these vaccines, is because they have been approved much more quickly than usual. So normally a vaccine will take five to seven years for full approval from sort of woe to go. That is from the very start of the vaccine being developed to when it actually starts going inside people’s arms as part of a program. The COVID vaccines have been far, far, far faster than this, and it’s not because they are unsafe or anything like that. It’s because COVID is a big, big problem, so a lot of money has been poured into developing vaccines, so a lot of research groups are involved in them, and you can see that by the number of vaccines that got developed. And a huge number of people around the world are working on them. And I know this sounds a little bit – it doesn’t sound ideal, but a lot of people have been affected by COVID. So what that means is there’s a lot of – the ability to actually see if the vaccines are effective, are working, is much greater than it would be for a rare disease under normal circumstances.

So as Alison said, I’m sorry, I don’t have the full list of vaccine ingredients. You can find that under the product information on the Therapeutic Goods Administration site. But what I can reassure you is that the vaccines have gone through the same approval process that every other medicine and vaccine has done in Australia. So that involves clinical trials and then reporting of those clinical trials to the TGA, and then provisional registration once they’ve been assessed for both safety and effectiveness, and then post-marketing surveillance. So what post-marketing surveillance means is that there is an ongoing process after the vaccines have been put into people’s arms, making sure and seeing if there are any unexpected side effects. Now the reason for that is because even though the clinical trials have been absolutely massive, they’ve involved hundreds of thousands of people, if you’ve got a side effect that occurs once in a million, you may not see it in those clinical trials. But once you’re actually taking the vaccines out into the world and millions upon millions of people are receiving them, as they have worldwide – it’s hundreds of millions of people now for most of these vaccines – that’s when you start to see those very, very rare side effects. So the post-marketing surveillance is an important way of picking them up.

So the vaccines are not experimental. They have been through a rigorous safety process. They’ve been approved. They’re shown to be effective and they are shown to be safe. I’m sure we’ve all heard about the rare side effects associated with some of them that had been picked up by that post-marketing surveillance, and that’s how we’ve ended up with this age stratified recommendation around particularly the AstraZeneca vaccine. And to me, while obviously we would prefer a vaccine that gave absolutely no side effects, the fact that that was picked up – and these are incredibly rare, between sort of one to two million for the clotting syndrome, a little bit more common for a less severe version – that means that the process is actually working to pick up anything rare that happens after the vaccine has been approved and is out in the population. So I really hope that reassures you Bobby. I can genuinely say I’ve received one of the vaccines, my parents have received the vaccines, my patients have received the vaccines. So I am very confident in Australia’s processes for managing their safety and effectiveness.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Steph. And the next question I’m going to go back to Chris, and Chris the question is from Cathy. And Cathy, I know you wrote this down, but I’m just going to just editorialise a little bit.

Q:        The Government enforced mandatory vaccination for aged care.

We’ve heralded that we are going to mandate the vaccine for aged care workers. It’s not in now. It’s coming.

Q:        Why hasn’t mandatory vaccination for disability support workers been introduced, given this is an extremely vulnerable group of people?

So we’ll go to Chris for that.

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison. Thank you for the question. It is a very mixed response to mandatory vaccination for disability workforce or not. It is a conversation that is still occurring in National Cabinet, where the decision was made about the aged care workforce. So at National Cabinet, the states and territory Premiers and our Ministers are having the conversation on whether we should be making vaccinations for our workforce mandatory.

Sorry. I’m going in again Al. There has been a couple of questions about decisions made when you’re in lockdown and visitors etcetera. Can I just reassure you here that this team here is responsible for the vaccinations. The decisions about lockdown and who can visit who in what homes are from the states and territories public health orders. And obviously the disability providers are very keen to assist in any way they can to make sure people continue to get their supports in lockdown, and that your families and your loved ones aren’t without supports as needed. So just for everyone’s knowledge, public health guidelines direct what happens in a lockdown. The Commonwealth here are responsible for the vaccinations, and there’s lots of work that the disability providers are working with NDIA and others on how they can make sure they get supports into people when they’re in those situations.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Chris.

The next question I’m going to go to is I’m going to go back to Steph.

Steph, from Rena.

Q:        Why aren’t we allowed to have a choice as to which vaccine I get, as it’s my body?

Dr Steph Davis:

Right. So I’m assuming this relates to the age recommendations for AstraZeneca. So as everyone knows, at the moment in Australia there are two main vaccines being used. There’s the Pfizer vaccine, which is an MRNA vaccine or MRNA platform-based vaccine, and there is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is an adenovirus vector vaccine. So they’re two different mechanisms of delivering the COVID antigen to get your body to stimulate an immune response against it.

So when the vaccine program started, Pfizer was rolled out first, and that was for the 1A cohort, and it wasn’t anything to do with the fact that Pfizer was more effective or seemed to be safer or seemed to be a better vaccine. It was because it got to Australia first. That was the reason that Pfizer got rolled out first, and for no other reason. Now just going back to my previous comment about those rare side effects, AstraZeneca then got rolled out. A lot of people got AstraZeneca. As this was happening, there were some safety signals being received from Europe and the UK, and remember, they were a lot further on in their vaccine rollout than we were at that stage. And what those safety signals showed was that there seemed to be a very rare syndrome called Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome, which involved a number of different clots and bleeding in different parts of the body, and it was very rare and very unusual. Normally you see a similar thing sometimes, very rarely, with a drug called Heparin, an anti-clotting drug, but you don’t normally see it otherwise.

So a question was raised around is this related to the vaccine, because a lot of people getting this seemed to have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. So initially it wasn’t thought to be, but then as more evidence emerged, and this evidence was considered by ATAGI, it seemed to be that it was probably related to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now the other thing about this syndrome was that it appeared to be more common in younger people, and particularly in younger women. And again, the first questions around this were is it just because younger women are more likely to be working in healthcare fields – and I think generally that’s the case – and so they’re more likely to have received the vaccine in the first stages. Again, this is based on the UK and EU data. And again, as more evidence emerged, it seemed to be no, it is actually more common in younger people – the gender difference is not relevant any longer. That probably was due to that healthcare thing. But there is evidence that the syndrome is more common in younger people.

So based on this, ATAGI made a recommendation initially that only those over the age of 50 years and over should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on the fact the syndrome was even rarer in those people, and based on the fact that that group are more likely in general to get sicker from COVID than younger people. As again more evidence emerged, that age group was put up to 60. So again, age is a very, very, very strong risk factor for getting sick and dying from COVID in general, and the risk of the AstraZeneca vaccine of that Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome, was much, much lower in those people. So the risk in the group over 60 really didn’t outweigh the benefit, whereas for younger people, when you don’t have much COVID around, that benefit of the vaccine was not as great, and the risk was a bit bigger.

So the situation we’re in now is that we do have this age stratified idea around who should receive which vaccine, and this is really just to do with the amount of supply we’ve got. At the moment, what we’ve got is we’ve got AstraZeneca and we’ve got Pfizer, and not enough to give everyone the vaccines at the same time. But we want everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. To do that in the safest way, we want people to receive the vaccine which is safest for them, and in the situation for the people aged 60 and over, that’s the AstraZeneca vaccine generally, because we know that their risk of the TTS, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome, is much, much lower. Whereas for those aged under that, in general, notwithstanding areas where there’s high levels of COVID at the moment, the Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine. So that’s sort of where that recommendation has come down to, and I know it does cause a lot of consternation. And again, I’m a GP. I have a lot of these conversations around choice of vaccine. But we’re looking really at this from a population level, and in terms of protecting the population, this is the vaccines we’ve got at the moment. It’s going to change in the future, but what we’ve got right now is we’ve got to maintain that sort of stratification between ages to make sure we get as many people vaccinated as possible as quickly as possible.

And I’m sorry Alison. That was a very long answer, but I hope that’s addressed your concerns.

Professor Alison McMillan:

No Steph. I think that these questions are so important for us to answer them fully, so I really appreciate you taking the time to explain that fully so that we can clarify how and why decisions are made, when as you say, it’s based on a population base when it’s a public health response.

Okay. I’m going to go next to Chris. Chris, this is from Wing.

Q:        Chris, can you please clarify about carers? You said unpaid family members of NDIS participants. Can you get priority? Which choice of brand do you get?

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison. So with carers and unpaid carers, it is along the lines, as has already discussed from here with Steph, that if you’re under 60 you will get Pfizer, if you’re over 60 you get AstraZeneca. So we’re complying with the appropriate health and medical advice in that vaccination. I hope that answers that question.

I just want to address the other question about the in-reach, and I think it’s gone up on the Chat. There is no website for a booking of in-reach. How the process occurs, we have worked with the disability providers of SIL homes, and they work alongside Aspen or HCA to arrange those booking times for vaccinations. And the intent is they ring ahead of a date and they make a time, of how many people will be at the house, and that includes workers as well, and then the Aspen or HCA will come to the disability home or they will go to a hub where they will be vaccinated. So it’s not an advertised process at all. This is between the disability provider and the vaccination provider to address the Phase 1A, as I explained it before, two or more people living in a residential setting. Thanks. I hope that answered the question Alison.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Chris. The next question is a popular question that comes in a number of groups.

Sorry. I’ll have to go back. A popular question. A number of people are asking this.

Q:        Where can we go for trustworthy information about vaccines? There is too much misinformation and scare tactics out there.

So my advice is that the most reliable information comes from our website, which is It’s provided in an easy read format. It’s provided in infographic format. It’s provided in multiple languages to try to provide advice to our fabulous broad and diverse community.

Also, all of the Health Departments in each of the states and territories you’re in also have similar websites with a broad range of information available to you, very similar to us, in an easy read format, in an infographic format, and in multiple languages in order to ensure everyone can get up to date information. Please don’t look to some of the social media aspects of these things, because that is where we are seeing misinformation being promulgated. And also, often overseas websites can provide information that’s not relevant to an Australian context.

So again, the places to go are the Department of Health websites, whether it’s federal or states and territories, where you can get that information to provide you the most up to date. On our website, the Department of Health, the Commonwealth Department of Health, we’ve chosen in fact to embrace the fact that there are often unusual questions asked about vaccines, and so we’ve got a section on our website that asks some of those questions that we do see circulating on social media to dispel myths about suggestions such as this is introducing microchips into people, or as you’ve heard already, fears, understandable fears, about the fact that some people feel that perhaps these vaccines are experimental or that we’re conducting experiments on the population. So we’ve chosen to embrace those questions, and so there’s a section on our website that actually draws to attention those unusual questions and then moves to answer them in a very clear and factual way for that.

The other place of course where it’s really important, is your general practitioner. Your general practitioner and their practice is the place that often knows you best, and that is a place where you can of course go to get advice and help about your circumstances and your situations. Your GP may choose to do this either in person or they may choose to do it through telehealth, but again, general practice is there to support you and your family, those you care for directly as well, and they will be able to help you in addressing any of your questions and concerns.

Okay. Next is from – sorry Karen. I just need to read the question for a moment.

Okay. So Karen is saying, and I’m going to ask this of Chris – Karen says:

Q:        Essential workers, aged care and people with disabilities were supposed to be first priority. Why are we struggling to get vaccinated, those who need it most? I physically cannot get my daughter vaccinated at a hub or a GP.

Chris Faulkner:

Thanks Alison. Thanks Alison. The question is about essential workers. Yes, essential workers both for aged care and disability have been made a priority. I think I spoke before about the delays. We understand that and have profuse apologies for that, but we are rolling through very quickly now. Again, as I said before, SIL, over 60% of people have been vaccinated, higher and lower in different states and territories. Workers at the moment are over 50%, and if they are at the residential settings at the time, they are entitled to be vaccinated at the same time or make the time with your employer to be available to be vaccinated when Aspen or HCA come to those settings, so either again, as I said, the disability provider hubs or in the SIL home for workers to be vaccinated. And again, they are given priority. I notice there was some frustration earlier in the Chat there about they said they had evidence of their priority status and that was ignored. I’ll take that away to the primary health care team to make sure the messaging is very clear to GPs that aged care workers, disability care workers, those with a disability have priority. So we’ll keep reinforcing that message, and apologies that’s been your experience.

We do know some of the states and territories have made their hubs accessible, both in a sensory sense for those that have a great deal of anxiety and those needing accessible either in ramps, space and quiet time. So a number of state hubs do have those facilities that are able to give you that opportunity to go there to be vaccinated if you feel that you are being significantly delayed. I’d also make comment of course to Mr McNally’s inaccurate information that is going on the Chat here, and please be advised that Alison and Steph are providing the accurate correct information on what the vaccines do. So please be reassured by that.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Chris. The next question is from Yolandi. I’ll probably start and then ask Steph to continue. So the question is:

Q:        Will 12 to 15 year olds with a medical condition be prioritised and not have to wait before getting the vaccine, and when will the eligibility checker be updated to reflect the approval and vaccination hubs accepting these people?

No I think it’s important to say that the expert group ATAGI – we made a range of advice about the prioritisation of vaccines, and we continue as Government to follow the advice of ATAGI. And that advice is based on, as Dr Davis has explained, both the evidence about which is the vaccine for each of the different groups of priority, but also based on availability. As you can I’m sure appreciate, everywhere across the world, everyone is competing to get access to the vaccines. And that means that we have to prioritise based on availability and those at greater risk. And so in time, now ATAGI has seen sufficient evidence, as Dr Davis explained, or Steph explained, that the vaccine is safe for 12 to 15 year olds now based on the worldwide studies, and now we’ll work on the prioritisation to get that vaccine to those most vulnerable. So that will come, and the eligibility checker will be updated as quickly as we can around that. But we all obviously are focusing on those most vulnerable to severe disease and death at this point in time. But I’ll just check if there’s anything else from Steph that she wants to add to that question around 12 to 15 year olds with medical conditions and now being able to prioritise the vaccine?

Dr Steph Davis:

Yeah. Thanks Alison. So the ATAGI statement recommending 12 to 15 year olds as a priority group came out on the 2nd of August I think, or around early August. In terms of the eligibility checker being updated and when they’ll be incorporated within that thing, I think that’s probably something we need to look at, because it’s different of course from the medical advice or ATAGI’s advice at the moment, which is saying that they are a priority group. But I think we’ll need to have a look at the eligibility checker. Thanks.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Sorry guys. I just have to read the screen here and try and absorb the question while I’m reading it. A popular question in the group chats is we are seeing questions from members in the group asking about reactions or allergies from vaccine. While we can’t comment on individuals’ medical conditions, we do encourage you to discuss your medical history with your GP to see if the vaccines are right for you. But in general terms, and I will go to Dr Davis again just to reiterate this, these vaccines are safe and effective, particularly very safe and effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death. And there are very few medical conditions that would contravene you having either of these vaccines, and that’s terrific, because it means they’re widely available to all of us. And as I said, you can discuss this with your general practitioner.

There are of course, as with all medications, of which vaccine is one, there are some common side effects that one might expect to see. So we all know from flu vaccinations and other childhood vaccinations you sometimes get a sore arm, and that’s expected. Some people do get some mild symptoms after each of the vaccines, and these generally resolve within a day or so. And so this is not uncommon as we know in all vaccines, and this is something that you can anticipate you might receive. I certainly after my second vaccine felt pretty unwell the next day, but it resolved overnight with a good night’s sleep. So yes, there are some reactions we get to the vaccines, and as I say, that’s normal. And there are very few medical conditions that might contravene you getting the vaccine. I’ll just go to Steph, just if there’s anything she’d like to add to that. But obviously in the Chat people are asking questions about themselves, and we’re not in a position to answer those. So hopefully I’ve given some reassurance to those questions based on that general information. Steph, have you anything else to add?

Dr Steph Davis:

Yeah. Thanks Alison. I mean I think a lot of questions that come up with my patients is around blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, and particularly if people have had a past deep vein thrombosis or DVT or a pulmonary embolism, so a PE, and whether or not they’re safe to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. And this is really important, because blood clots are really, really common. I’m sure you’ve either had one yourself or you know someone who’s had one at some point in your life. So they’re really common. But the way that a blood clot normally forms is a completely different mechanism, completely different from the Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. It’s completely different.

So having had a clot in your leg when you were on a flight or a clot in your lungs for whatever reason is not a contraindication to the AstraZeneca vaccine. It does not put you at any higher risk of getting that rare Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome than anyone else. There are a couple of very specific contraindications where there may be an increased risk for clots after the AstraZeneca vaccine. One of them is a previous cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. That’s a particular clot in the brain. Another one is antiphospholipid syndrome with clots, and that’s a very specific autoimmune syndrome. And again, this comes down to the fact that the TTS, the Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome might act in similar mechanisms to those. We actually don’t know. There’s no evidence that they are an increased risk, but there might be similar mechanisms, so the recommendation is to be cautious. In that situation, AstraZeneca isn’t the preferred vaccine. But for sort of your garden variety – I know that sounds terrible – for the common blood clots that most of us get, having had them in the past does not increase your risk of getting that nasty Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine, no matter how old you are.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Okay. The next question again we’re seeing quite a lot.

Q:        Are we able to mix vaccines? People who are waiting for Pfizer may get AZ now. If they can get Pfizer later, will that be possible?

So Steph, do you want to give this one a shot?

Dr Steph Davis:

Yeah. Sorry. I love talking about vaccines, so this is very fun for me. I hope it’s useful for everyone on the webinar more importantly. Look, there’s no reason why down the track anyone who’s had an AstraZeneca vaccine now won’t be able to get Pfizer in the future. And to be honest, we really don’t know what the future is going to look like in terms of COVID vaccines. It may end up that people will need boosters, in the same way that we need a different flu vaccine each year to cope with the changing of the vaccines, and it may be that booster looks the same as the vaccines now or maybe it looks slightly different. And we just don’t know. But I mean certainly in some countries overseas, they’ve actually done a bit of work with mixed schedules. So that is the first dose of one vaccine and a second dose of another vaccine, for a variety of reasons, mainly when they couldn’t access enough of the same vaccine to give second doses. And there have been no concerns with that at all, and in the same way as there’s no concerns around having had a full course of AstraZeneca vaccine now and then getting a Pfizer down the track.

Professor Alison McMillan:

Thanks Steph. That’s great. Okay. A question I’ve got.

Q:        How do you prove that you’ve been vaccinated?

So when you get your vaccines, it is recorded, and it’s recorded in the Australian Immunisation Register, or the AIR a we call it, because you know in Health we all love an acronym. But it’s also recorded against your Medicare number. So if you go to your Medicare online account through myGov, you will be able to see your vaccine history there. And also Medicare has a mobile app. Also your GP will be able to access your vaccine history as well if you allow your GP to do that. If you want, you can always call the Australian Immunisation Register, and they will send you an immunisation history statement in the post if you prefer to do it that way.

So there’s lots and lots of ways in which you can get information about your vaccine and what vaccines you’ve had. The Services Australia website will explain to you step by step how to get your immunisation history as well if that’s something that you’re looking to do. But as I say, the Medicare online account will show your vaccine history, because when you go for your vaccination, I’m sure you know that we ask you for your Medicare number and which person you are on your Medicare card. So there’s lots of places where that’s available so that you can have that, you can see that record of your vaccination history.

Another question again, I’ll just reiterate this again, a question about accessible or translated information about COVID-19 vaccines. So again, as I’ve said, you can go to, and there are 12 easy read resources there that you can use yourself or for others you care for, and there are 35 Auslan translated captioned videos, and we are eternally grateful for the amazing work that our Auslan interpreters do, because it’s a great way for us to reach as many people as we can in a way that’s accessible to them. So again, 35 Auslan translated captioned videos, so a range of means of communication.

It’s 12:28, and Steph and I need to go to another AHPPC meeting, so we’ll need to leave you here. I can see we’ve peaked at somewhere around 260 participants today on this webinar, so I am extremely grateful for everyone’s input and the great questions that you’ve been asking. Can I remind, as Chris has just said, that the information that Chris, Dr Steph Davis and myself are providing to you is the accurate and reliable information, and there may be others in the Chat that I would suggest you don’t rely on that information, but go to reliable sources such as or those websites or your general practitioner for the most up to date and reliable information.

So thanks again to Dr Steph Davis, to Chris Faulkner and to Grace Edward for her input today. And I thank you all for your time and the continued work that the carers and families of those with disability who are with us today, and the people with disabilities who joined us with this important information, and I hope you can share this with others so that we can look forward to having a fully vaccinated Australian population and move towards the new COVID world, whatever that might be. So thank you everyone for your time today.

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