Hello, my name is Alison McMillan. I'm the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. My shout out today is for all of those essential workers, whether you're a teacher, a health professional, whether you work in hospitality, in the grocery and delivery services, your work is really appreciated and I know how difficult it has been for you during this pandemic, so thank you.
The first question for today: what tips would you give someone who is really nervous about receiving a vaccine or who has a needle phobia?
So, the first answer to that is that it is OK to be nervous. People can be anxious about all sorts of things and particularly during this pandemic, we know that has caused people anxiety. But the good news is that the health professional who will give you your vaccine is very experienced in working with people or patients who are nervous, and they will help you through that process. There are things you can do to make getting your vaccine easier for yourself or perhaps a person you care for. It is worth taking the time to think about why you're having the vaccine, reminding yourself that the COVID-19 vaccines are saving lives, and it has been rigorously tested, that both vaccines have been rigorously tested. Also think about how getting a vaccine will benefit you, your family, your loved ones, and the wider community. I particularly want to encourage those who care for those with disabilities, to work with them, to help them be comfortable in getting vaccinated. It may be that you need to run through this process a couple of times with a trial run so they can become comfortable and familiar with the situation they are in, or perhaps go with someone they know and trust, and go with them when they are getting vaccinated to see that this process is safe and they can be comfortable in that situation. When it comes to needle phobias, there is no quick fix. If you have a really strong needle phobia, there are techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and for that you really need to talk to your GP. But as I've said, always keep in mind that the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and effective, particularly at preventing the coronavirus, and getting the vaccine helps stop the spread of this dreadful virus.
The next question is an update on the need for boosters.
So as yet we don't know a lot about how long the Covid vaccines will the last, and whether or not a booster or a revaccination might be necessary. Planning is underway in Australia in the expectation that a booster or a revaccination might be necessary, but right now, we are concentrating on getting as many people as possible vaccinated with their first and second dose. In good time, the expert group, ATAGI, as they are called, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration are continuing to monitor the evidence and the experiences across the world around whether revaccination or booster is required and in time they will make recommendations about what might be necessary in the future. But right now, we are encouraging everyone to get their first and second dose, and in time, we will see if boosters are necessary but we do anticipate that we are likely to see the need for a Covid vaccine into the future in Australia.
The third question, is it safe for pregnant women to be vaccinated? And what evidence is there to support this?
So, firstly, if you are pregnant, you are eligible right now to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and the Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the expert group, ATAGI, are recommending that pregnant women get their Covid vaccine, or the Pfizer vaccine, at any time during their pregnancy. We know this and we've learnt with the evidence that is growing around the world, that pregnant women are at greater risk of severe disease if they catch Covid, and unfortunately, it can cause premature birth of their babies. This evidence has grown over time as we've seen the experience across the world, around the safety of these vaccines and pregnancy, and that is now why the Pfizer vaccine is being recommended to everyone who is pregnant. Also, if you are trying to get pregnant or you are breastfeeding, the Pfizer vaccine is safe in those situations too. When it comes to the evidence, there is a lot of information available to you on the Government Department of Health website, and so if you go to health.gov.au, you can read more about the safety and the use of the vaccines in pregnancy, and I encourage you to do that and that information is being constantly updated as more evidence comes to hand.
So again, my final message to everyone is, now is the time to get vaccinated. So please, if you have not yet made your appointment, I encourage you to do so. Thank you to Linda and have a good day.
- What tips would you give someone who is really nervous about receiving the vaccine or who has a phobia of needles?
- Is there any update on the need for boosters?
- Is it safe for pregnant women to be vaccinated? What evidence supports this?