Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – COVIDSafe app, vaccine lifespan and impact on other medication
In this video Dr Nick Coatsworth, infectious disease specialist, answers the top 3 questions you’ve been asking on our social accounts.
Good morning everybody, it's Dr Nick and James here for today’s Top 3.
And as you know if you're hearing the Top 3 with me, that must mean it's a Friday. So I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a safe weekend, hopefully with your family. And for those of you who are working I hope it's not too difficult for you.
My shout out today is to everyone involved in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. You know, this is one of the largest logistical exercises that Australia has ever undertaken, we need to ensure a level of cooperation that's not been seen before, between federal, state, health departments, between general practices, between our nursing staff at hospitals, and you, the community.
It's going to go as smoothly as we can possibly make it, but there will be hiccups along the way. We have already seen that the vaccine program may extend into 2022 in order to vaccinate all our population, our Health Secretary, Brendan Murphy, said that yesterday during the parliamentary inquiry. And that's because, of course, the AstraZeneca vaccine, the one that I received 2 days ago, takes 12 weeks to go through the course. So for those in the second phases of our vaccination campaign, phase 2a and particularly phase 2b, if you get your vaccine towards the end of the year then the second vaccine may occur in 2022.
The important thing to remember there, about the AstraZeneca vaccine is that it induces protective antibodies, in 94% of people within one week of vaccination. So once you get that first jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine, you are protected. Then the second vaccine in the AstraZeneca regime, is to give you the durability of protection over long period of time.
Just going back on that personal note, I received that AstraZeneca vaccine, I'm feeling great today. I was a little fatigued yesterday, and I had a headache on the first night after the vaccine, and some people do get side effects like that. I took some Panadol, recovered perfectly well, and I'm feeling great today.
First question. Should I still be using the COVIDSafe app once I have been vaccinated?
Now, particularly in the early phases of our rollout of the vaccine, before a large number of Australians have been vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccination is not a substitute for COVID-19 safe behaviour.
The vaccine at the moment is supplementing other public health rules and guidelines, at the moment we still need to remember that testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation are really important parts of COVID safety for the Australian community.
As an increasing number of Australians get vaccinated, and particularly once we conclude the bulk of our vaccination campaign, there may well be changes, to policy regarding quarantine in particular, and so it's going to be important to remember that 2021 is going to be a year of changes as well, and to keep yourself updated.
To keep yourself protected from COVID-19, but also from influenza and other respiratory viruses, practice good hand hygiene, practice physical distancing where possible, follow the limits for public health gatherings and know when to isolate when you need to. And remember how good it was in 2020 when we had so few respiratory viruses circulating in the community. I know that last year I was far less sick over winter than I was the year prior, I hope that that continues.
So my advice to you is to continue all of the behaviours that you had last year, if you have got the COVID-19 safe app on your phone, do keep using it, we will be able to change things once everybody who needs to, and wants to in the community gets vaccinated.
Second question. How long will the COVID-19 vaccine last once I've had two doses?
Such a critical question and it is not yet known precisely how long the vaccination will last after you have had your course. And that's because the phase 3 trials only started in, sort of mid-2020. So, we have 9 to 12 months of data, but the data so far is encouraging in terms of longevity of immunity, how long the antibodies last.
The other thing that is interesting is that it is not just these proteins, these antibodies that are created by the vaccine, but it also stimulates another part of our immune system, called T cells.
So there's a combined anti body and T cell response and one of the schools of thought at the moment is that the T cell response may provide the durability of immunity.
So, unfortunately I can't tell you whether you will need another course of COVID-19 vaccination after the first one.
The most important thing we need to focus on is getting that first course of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine into us, so that the community is protected, and so that we can start to return to the pre-COVID status of an open country and open economy.
We will keep informing you of the latest research, the TGA, of course, is looking at this all the time, but right now what we can definitively tell you is that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines prevent hospitalisation, severe illness and death from COVID-19, that's why it is so important that we get out there and get vaccinated.
And finally, Will the vaccines impact the effectiveness of other medication I am taking?
Well if you do have other health conditions, the first thing you should always do to satisfy yourself that things are going to be OK, and also define which priority group that you are in, you should go and speak to your GP.
There are so many general practices around Australia that will be signing up to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, there is every chance that your GP will be able to give you your COVID-19 vaccine, if not, then of course there is no problem in going to another general practitioner but in the first instance, talk to the GP that knows you best, and discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.
The general rule is that if you have another medical condition, and you get COVID-19, your outcomes are worse. You are more likely to go to hospital if you have heart disease or respiratory disease.
So in those sorts of situations, you really need to get the COVID-19 vaccine and give yourself that important bit of protection that is going to protect you from severe disease.
In terms of the drugs that we are taking, overwhelmingly, vaccines mix well with other medications. There are very few interactions. In fact none that I can really think of off hand, I would probably need to hit the books to find them. And so they generally do not diminish the effectiveness of the vaccine that you are getting.
The only circumstances that you need to worry about generally is if you are taking live vaccines, for example, the varicella vaccine, for the varicella virus which causes chickenpox, and then if you are immunosuppressive medications, it is of concern.
But neither vaccine that we have got at the moment for COVID-19, is what we call a live vaccine, neither of them are, so you don't need to worry if you are on immune suppressive medications.
I hope that that has been useful information for you today.
Thank you again, James, as always for being with us. It's wonderful to be able to do the top 3 with you every week.
I wish you a happy weekend and a COVID-19 safe weekend.
- Should I still be using the COVID Safe app once I have been vaccinated?
- How long will the COVID-19 vaccine last once I have had two doses?
- Will the vaccines impact the effectiveness of other medication I am taking?