Hello and welcome to today’s top 3. My name is Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the Australian Department of Health and I’m joined by Linda, who provides our Auslan interpretation. Today my greetings go to everyone who has either received a booster dose for a COVID-19 vaccine or are planning a booster dose for the COVID-19 vaccine when it is your turn. What we do know is that these booster vaccinations will give your immune system an extra boost and increase protection for yourself, your family members, and other members of the community. Booster vaccination is recommended six months after your second vaccination of your first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. If it takes 6 months after this second vaccination, please make an appointment and get your booster vaccination with a COVID-19 vaccine. By doing this, you will strengthen protection for you, your family, and everyone else in Australia. Thank you for your questions.

Your first question today, as more people return to work, school and other institutions, what can we do to prepare for anxiety? First, it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious during this time. We all experienced anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. When you go through changes, such as going back to work, it can lead to symptoms of anxiety. Of course, what you can do to counter feelings of anxiety is to have some degree of control over what is happening. You can do this by paying attention to your COVIDSafe behavior. We have all got used to protecting our health and well-being during the pandemic and will continue to do so when you return to work. Be careful with your hand hygiene, and if you have to wear masks while commuting or at work, please do so. Maintain this physical distance from other people, especially strangers you may not know on the street outside of your workplace. Your employer will also do everything possible to make the workplace COVIDSafe. This can include increased cleaning of the workplace. This can also include maintaining an appropriate physical distance between employees and visitors. It may include requirements for the use of masks in the workplace. It may be that the physical distance between the workstations of individual people is greater and the number of people who can be in a room at the same time can be limited. In the workplace, too, more attention can be paid to improving air quality and ventilation. Some employees will stage their return to work so that they don’t all come at the same time. There may also be a staging of different people’s working hours so that you don’t crowd into places where you enter the workplace, such as near elevators and other areas where people may move closer together. Certainly, with people who have been able to work from home for many months, you have concerns about losing some of the benefits of working from home. Many people in Australia have undoubtedly enjoyed not commuting to work and having a little more free time during the day if they would otherwise have been sitting on public transport or in a traffic jam. But you can make up for that by looking at the benefits of getting back in touch with your co-workers and friends. This opportunity to meet people you haven’t seen face to face in a while. The opportunity to have a coffee with a friend. The opportunity to go to a favorite cafe or place to have lunch. The ability to hold meetings or gatherings with other people while you are in the same room instead of coming together through video conferencing, zoom, and other systems. So, enjoy the changes that have come back, however, if you are feeling anxious and that anxiety doesn’t go away, please contact your GP or other trusted health care provider to see why you are feeling anxious. Of course, Beyond Blue and other mental health resources have resources to talk to about how you feel.

The second question is whether self-tests for COVID-19 can be used while traveling. Starting earlier this month, November, we will be able to purchase self-tests for COVID-19 that you can do at home. These are available from pharmacies and supermarkets, and some people have purchased self-tests. Self-tests are not allowed when traveling abroad. If you are traveling on an international flight and are fortunate enough to travel abroad, you must follow the requirements of the Australian government and each airline you are traveling with. A negative PCR test is required when traveling on flights to and from Australia. This is a test done on a report from a laboratory. This test result must be available within 72 hours of boarding your flight. If you do not have this test, you will not get a result, it is likely that you will not be able to board your flight. For individuals traveling domestically in Australia, you must follow the requirements of the states and territories you will be traveling to. Confusion can arise as different states and territories currently have different requirements based on how late they open based on whether there are cases of COVID-19 in the community in that state or territory. So please go to the website of the state or territory you are traveling to and read through the traveler requirements and make sure you are well prepared. If you need a test, be it a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, make sure you have this test done before either boarding a flight or traveling across the border to another state or territory. As I said, there may be a little confusion in the coming weeks or months. Of course, we assume there will be significant numbers of people traveling through Australia in December before the holidays. Make sure you are well prepared and make sure you are up to date on the requirements.

Your third question is whether the COVID-19 vaccines can interfere with other medical treatments you may be receiving. It’s a very important question. With most medications and other treatments, the COVID-19 vaccine is not a problem. However, if in any doubt, please contact your GP or other trusted healthcare professional for advice on what to do. However, there are three situations that I would like to highlight for you that a problem with a COVID-19 vaccine can arise. The first is for people who take blood-thinning medications called anticoagulants. Especially for people who have just started blood thinning treatment or for people who may be currently unstable with their blood thinning treatment. If this applies to you, please speak to your family doctor or another medical professional you trust about the timing of your COVID-19 vaccination. Just to make sure it’s safe and you won’t bleed excessively from the injection. For most people who are stable with blood thinning medications, there should be no problem at all, but if you have any questions please ask your primary care doctor. The second group of people are people who take immunosuppressive drugs. This includes people who may be doing chemotherapy. It is really important when you have the COVID-19 vaccine that we have the possibility for your immune system to make the antibodies that protect in case you come into contact with the COVID-19 virus. Please speak to your doctor again about the timing of your COVID-19 vaccination if you are taking immunosuppressive treatment or receiving chemotherapy. It is still very important that people taking immunosuppressants get protection from the COVID-19 vaccines, but it is important to speak with your doctor about when to vaccinate. The third group of people are people who have become infected with COVID-19 and have been treated with a monoclonal antibody. We currently have one drug available in Australia. It’s called sotrovimab and it’s given as an intravenous infusion to some people infected with COVID-19 to keep them from getting seriously ill and hospitalized. If you’ve received such treatment, you must wait 90 days after treatment before you can get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because the antibodies in treatment can actually interfere with the vaccine and prevent you from developing a strong immune response that will give you long lasting protection if you are infected with COVID-19 again. So if you have had any of these monoclonal antibody treatments please speak to your GP or doctor and they will advise you when to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Aside from these three examples, most people should be fine getting their COVID-19 vaccine. Very little problem with other drugs. As I said, if you have any doubts about this or any other question about your vaccination, please speak to your trusted family doctor and let him advise you.

These are our top 3 for today. Thank you for listening and thank you for your questions. You are very helpful. They help us prepare all communication materials that will be issued by the Ministry of Health. Thank you for doing your part to ensure that we get the information you need in a timely manner. Have a nice day, thank you all and thank you Linda.