Good morning, I'm Dr Lucas De Toca, and welcome to Top Three. Today I'm joined by Linda, who will be doing Auslan interpreting. We are broadcasting from Ngunnawal country, and I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands people may be watching from. My shout out today goes to those people who work at our pathology labs, testing centers, GP respiratory clinics and other testing facilities. You've been champions throughout this pandemic and helped keep us all safe, tirelessly processing thousands of tests a day so we know whether we have COVID or not, and also when we get a negative test result so we can come out of isolation. It's really important that we continue as we have for the last 14 months to stay at home if we feel unwell, even with very mild symptom, get a test and wait until we get the negative result before we leave home and it's thanks to the people working in those laboratory facilities and collection sites that we can continue to stay COVIDSafe. So thank you.
First question, why should I bother being vaccinated if I can still catch COVID-19?
Yeah, that is a really good question. We are having more and more emerging evidence that it seems like the vaccines may be able to have an impact on infection, so help reduce spread. That's something that it's quite difficult to assess and it requires some time of the vaccines being used in the population to see what impact they're having on transmission. We are seeing overseas in countries like Israel or the UK that they are preventing infections or for the virus to replicate. So they seem to be able to stop the spread. However, what we know for sure, and there's a lot of evidence behind it, is that the vaccines, all of them, are very effective at preventing you from getting very sick, and to going to hospital or dying from COVID-19, and that is primarily what we are going for. We know that the direct protection, the protection that you directly get from the vaccines will enable you to drastically reduce the chances of you having a bad outcome from COVID, going to hospital or let alone dying from the disease. So it's really important that, even though there's a chance that you may still catch COVID after you have been vaccinated, you will get the vaccine so we are very clear and you are very safe from getting severe disease or dying from the disease.
The vaccines will help us avoid prolonging the pandemic. They will contribute to stoking the numbers of new cases and it will also help reduce the overall circulating virus in the population, which is the best way that we can prevent from new variants of the virus from happening. Even if you have had COVID-19, you are still encouraged to get the vaccine when it is offered to you. We think, based on the evidence that we have, that the vaccines, even if you've had the disease, will help you sustain an immune response for longer and protect you even if you've already had the disease.
Second question - if the vaccine is safe, why do we have to sign a consent form?
Yeah so informed consent is a legal and ethical and professional requirement for any health or medical intervention. It is a big part of patient choice and supporting patient-centred care. Vaccines in Australia are voluntary and these vaccines are voluntary, even though they're strongly encouraged because they will help to protect you and the community from COVID-19, but fundamentally an informed consent is a way to ensure that the person's decision is well informed and given voluntarily, to agree to a healthcare procedure or other intervention. This includes being vaccinated. Consent happens for and has been happening for any medical procedure you do and you are required to provide consent for the flu vaccine or childhood immunisation vaccines. It's important to ask questions and talk to your GP or the health provider about any concerns you may have. The consent is a process, it is a form. It is a process of you asking the questions and being satisfied that you have the information to make the decision on whether the vaccine is right for you.
It's not mandatory that the consent is signed. Many practitioners use consent forms and the government provides example consent forms that can help to have that discussion but ultimately it's a process, not a document, and verbal consent is valid and very common in many vaccination processes. When you provide informed consent, it means you have the information to make that decision and that you're happy to receive that COVID-19 vaccine, and consent can be withdrawn at any time, if you change your mind and you want to stop the procedure. These vaccines are voluntary but they're very effective and we really encourage people to get the vaccine when it's offered to you.
And finally, why is it okay to travel to New Zealand without having to quarantine but not other places?
Yeah, sadly the pandemic continues to rage on internationally. In fact, the last couple of weeks we have seen one of the highest climbs in new cases internationally ever since COVID-19 started. Which is a really sad situation and it means we have seen tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of cases across the world every day. However, some countries and Australia and New Zealand are definitely two of those, have been very successful in their measures to stop the spread. International border closures, public health restrictions and primarily how the Australian and New Zealand population have embraced and followed public health directions and done everything they needed to do to keep yourself and everyone else safe means that we have a very enviable position, really, compared to the rest of the world in which we have virtually no community transmission. Every time there is a case of COVID, it's mostly in hotel quarantine from returned travellers or the very rare case of spreading to community that is really quickly got on to and stamped out. That means that we can live relatively normal lives within our controlled areas. Because both countries are in a very similar situation, they're able to establish a travel bubble so that people can travel back and forth between those two countries without having to get a permit from the Federal Government to leave or without having to quarantine when you get there or when you return. That is great, and it will greatly enhance our capacity to explore and go on holidays but also reconnect with loved ones if you happen to have friends or family in New Zealand.
Unfortunately we are not in the same situation with the rest of the world and that is hard for a lot of people with families overseas, like myself, with my family in Spain and Italy. So the government continues to review what the international situation is and it's likely in the future we will have similar bubbles with other countries in our immediate region that also have very similarly successful COVID-19 situations. As the pandemic progresses and as the vaccination program progresses, we will continue to assess what the state of our international borders is. But at the moment we want to make sure that we are kept safe from COVID-19 as we have over the last 14 months, but in the meantime we can travel domestically, and it's a very big country so there is a lot to explore, and now go and visit New Zealand friends.
I think that is all for today. As always, thank you for watching. Thank you for staying COVID-safe and thank you for continuing to submit your questions so we know what you're interested in knowing and we can then prepare these segments. Thank you, Linda, for your interpreting, and see you next time.