Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions – Inclusions in a COVID-19 plan, managing symptoms, and getting medical help

Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, answers the top three questions you’ve been asking on our social accounts.


Hello and welcome to today's top three. My name is Michael Kidd Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government Department of Health. I am joined today by our Auslan interpreter and my friend Linda, welcome Linda.

My shout out today is to everybody who has received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or is planning to do so. What we know about the booster doses which we are recommending four months after the second dose of your COVID-19 vaccine. Is that they give your immune system that extra support, that extra boost and what it means is that if you come in contact with someone with COVID-19, it means it is less likely you will be infected. If you are infected, it means it will be less likely that you can either pass infection on to other people or be at risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19. The booster doses are helping to protect you, protecting your family and other loved ones and protecting everyone in the wider community. So please, if you are due to get your booster, if it is now four months since you had that second dose of your COVID-19 vaccine, please arrange to get your booster today. If you still haven't had the first two doses of your COVID-19 vaccine, please also make an appointment today.

With our top three today I want to focus on what people should do if you test positive for COVID-19 or if a member of your family tests positive for COVID-19. We have received lots of questions about these issues.

The first question is, what should I do to prepare in case I test positive for COVID-19 or a member of my family or my household tests positive for COVID-19? It is a good idea to be prepared, to have a plan, given that we are seeing such high rates of COVID-19 infection in many parts of Australia at this time. So, please make sure you are prepared. If you do have symptoms of coldor flu, it is most likely at the moment that you have COVID-19. If you have a fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches and pains, this is likely to be COVID-19 and it means that you need to isolate, arrange to get tested and you need to be staying at home to protect your family and the wider community. If you have access to a rapid antigen test at home, you can do the rapid antigen test and if that tests positive, then you need to follow the requirements in your state and territory about reporting that positive test result. If you don't have access to a rapid antigen test you are able to travel to a COVID-19 testing centre. Obviously, please make sure you are wearing a mask and appropriate physical distancing from other people. If you have to be driven in a car, sit in the back seat and make sure the windows are down so you are protecting the driver and get your test, then you need to go straight home. If you have symptoms or if you have had a COVID-19 test or if you have a positive result, you're not able to go to the pharmacy, you are not able to go to the supermarket. This means being prepared, having at home the regular medicines that you would take if you have a bad cold or the flu. Make sure you have got plenty of nourishing food at home. A good idea to have some meals prepared in your freezer so if you're not feeling well, you can take something out and pop it in the microwave. Make sure you have plenty of fluids. When you have COVID-19 it is very important you are drinking lots of water but it may also be helpful to have some electrolyte solution which helps to combat the risk of dehydration. A good idea to have your general practice, your local general practice number handy, and also the phone number of who will you call for support and assistance? Particularly if you are living on your own. Is their family member or a friend or a neighbour who will be able to help you and go to the shops and get the things that you may need because you are isolating at home? You can also offer to provide that support if that person tests positive for COVID-19 as well, so you can support each other and we are seeing a lot of that happening throughout the community at this time. It would be a good idea to have a thermometer at home so you can monitor your temperature in case you do develop a fever associated with COVID-19 and a high fever can be an indication of the need to reach out for more help and support. Please make sure any regular medications that you have, that you have those on hand as well.

The second question that you have asked us is where can I find information about managing symptoms if I have COVID-19? Probably the first place to go is the Healthdirect website. This is and the Healthdirect website has a COVID-19 symptom checker. Where you can go through and mark the symptoms that you are experiencing and then get advice about managing those symptoms. It also can help you in determining how severe the infection is that you are experiencing at any time and provides advice about what to do and who to call. You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 and when you call the National Coronavirus Helpline, you will be asked about the symptoms that you have. If you have symptoms that are worrying or concerning, then your call will be passed on to a nurse who will be able to give you direct advice about what to do and how to manage your symptoms. If you wish, you can reach out of course to your own general practitioner and arrange a telehealth consultation to talk to your GP or perhaps to the nurse in your general practice about the symptoms that you are having. In fact, I would recommend that anyone who is aged 65 and above, call your GP if you are diagnosed with COVID to let them know you have COVID-19. So they can keep an eye on you over the coming days as your disease progresses. The same applies to anyone who has significant chronic disease, particularly diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or obesity, anyone who is pregnant, anyone who is immunocompromised and we are particularly concerned about anyone who has not been vaccinated. So it is important to reach out to your GP, let them know you have been diagnosed with COVID and they will be able to do telehealth consultations with you over the coming few days to help you to manage your symptoms. In addition, many of the states and territories have their own websites with information available on managing symptoms and also information is available in multiple languages for members of culturally and linguistically diverse communities and also in a number of Indigenous languages. If you have to call your general practice or the National Coronavirus Helpline, please remember that many people are also reaching out to help at the same time. So it may take a little while before your call is able to be answered. Some helplines have the option of calling you back and so you may like to use that option. You leave your phone number and then they call you back when one of the operators is free. Please remember these people are working under a huge amount of stress at the moment so please be kind and respectful to people who you are calling including the staff of your local general practice.

The third question is, what are the early warning signs that I might need further medical assistance? This is very important. While we know that many people who are infected with COVID-19 will have no symptoms or may only experience mild symptoms of runny nose, aches and pains, may be a headache, sore throat, dry cough, some people will become seriously unwell. This can include people who have been vaccinated, even people who have had a booster vaccine as well as people who have not had vaccines. So, it is important to keep an eye out for serious symptoms. I recommend that three or four times a day you stop and have an assessment about how you are feeling and if you are having trouble doing things that you would normally be able to do like getting up out of bed, going to the bathroom, going and making yourself a snack or getting yourself a drink of water, if you are having trouble doing these very basic things, that is an indication that your physical condition is being affected by the COVID-19 infection and you need to be reaching out for help. If you have a high fever, if you are having trouble with a persistent cough, if you are having difficulty getting out of bed, please reach out to your GP or you can ring the National Coronavirus Helpline again, 1800 020 080, talk to one of the nurses on the helpline about what you should be doing. Some people will become seriously unwell and if you become seriously unwell, do not hesitate to call 000 to call for an ambulance. If you are having difficulty breathing, if you are experiencing chest pain, if you are feeling faint and unable to stand up or if you are caring for a person withCOVID-19 and they are becoming confused or drowsy or you are having trouble waking them up or their skin colour is turning blue or they are becoming cold and clammy or you're noticing they're having difficulty with their breathing, these are all symptoms of severe disease. You need to ring and ambulance, please tell the operator that you or the person you are calling for has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you are requesting an ambulance to attend. The ambulance will come, the officers will assess you or the person with COVID-19 and make a decision about going to hospital. Please don't delay if you are having serious symptoms. Make sure you are reaching out for help and advice.

They are our top three questions for today. I just wanted to finish just with a message about mental health and well-being because it is really important to be looking after not only your physical health but your mental health and we do know that many people, when they are diagnosed with COVID-19, will have a family member diagnosed become anxious That is totally understandable. If you're feeling anxious or very worried, again you can reach out to the National Coronavirus Helpline or your GP, Beyond Blue or go to the head health website on the website for support. Again, if you are becoming seriously unwell all you are worried about someone in your family with COVID-19, again, reach out to those resources. This is a time where we know a lot of people are going to be experiencing mental health challenges, and this is perfectly normal at a time when we are seeing such high levels of COVID-19 in our community. Please look after yourself, look after each other. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, keep in close contact with your family and your friends, make some phone calls, make some video calls, and if you have a friend or family member with COVID-19, please reach out proactively to them as well. Let's all support each other during the next few weeks which are going to be very challenging across Australia. Thank you, everybody. A big thank you to Linda and look forward to join you again soon.

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  1. What should your COVID-19 plan include and why is it important to have one?
  2. Where can I find information on managing symptoms?
  3. What are the early warning signs that I might need further medical help after getting COVID-19?
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