WHAT are SARS-CoV-2 AND COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that was first reported in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, central China.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses which affect both mammals and birds, and they cause different diseases depending on the species infected. Human coronaviruses usually cause a mild, common cold-like illness which passes in a few days.

As part of the replication process of viruses, errors or mutations occur which can be minor, but they may also prove to be an advantage to the virus. This may be evident through increased transmissibility, virulence or, in the case of SARS-CoV-2, ability to jump species (a spill-over event). There is relatively recent history of this with two previous extensive outbreaks of coronavirus infections of animal origin spreading to humans - SARS (in 2002-3) and MERS (from 2012 and continuing).  

The virus can spread from person to person through:

  • Contact with an infectious person through aerosols which are expelled through talking, shouting or singing, particularly in indoor setting with inadequate ventilation (including in the 48 hours before symptoms, if any, appear).
  • Contact with droplets from an infected person’s saliva (cough, kiss) or discharge from the nose (sneeze).
  • Touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face – this is a much less common mode of transmission.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

COVID-19’s incubation period, the time between exposure to the virus and symptoms appearing, ranges from 1 to 14 days, but most people will develop symptoms within 5 to 6 days of exposure. Australia’s national COVID-19 public health guidelines use a 7 day (10 days in SA) isolation period, if all symptoms have settled. Full details for testing and isolating close contacts and positive cases are in the COVID-19 Test and Isolate National Protocols.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 95 studies it is estimated around 40.5% percent of infections are asymptomatic. You can access the article here: Asymptomatic positive test review

COVID-19 can range from an asymptomatic or mild illness to pneumonia, with symptoms that can include:

  • fever, fatigue
  • respiratory symptoms, including cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, runny or blocked nose
  • headache
  • muscle and/or joint pains
  • nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting
  • loss or altered sense of smell &/or taste
  • loss of appetite

COVID -19 can progress to a severe illness with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ system failure, septic shock, and death. Such severe cases require assisted ventilation and ICU management.

WHERE IS IT FOUND?

We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic (declared by WHO on March 11, 2020). As such, COVID-19 virus is currently a risk world-wide.

REDUCING THE RISK OF TRANSMISSION

When you are well

  • Have your COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Physical distancing 1.5 metres away from others wherever possible and follow local public health guidelines which may include wearing masks, registering at venues and other protocols.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you use often such as bench tops, desks and doorknobs

When you are sick

It is important that you stay at home if you feel unwell and continue to use good hygiene practice.  If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild, you should get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until you have a negative test result (or as directed by the public health unit). Rapid antigen testing kits are best used in the event of a potential exposure when you don't have symptoms – if a positive result is obtained, contact your doctor and obtain a PCR test for confirmation of the infection. If the rapid test is negative and you go on to develop symptoms, get a PCR test done and isolate until a negative result is received. While PCR tests are free under Medicare, rapid antigen kits are not covered and so must be purchased by the individual.

HOW IS COVID-19 TREATED?

Most people with COVID-19 disease will experience a mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring any specialist treatment. Rest, fluids and analgesia are generally the mainstays of treatment, however new therapies have, and continue, to be developed and the management of the disease will depend on the symptoms displayed. In cases of severe COVID-19 and for people at risk of complications, hospitalisation with supportive and antiviral or monoclonal antibody treatments may be required. Many treatments, both old (e.g. ivermectin) and new medications (e.g. molnupiravir) are currently being studied by the TGA.

WHAT IS COVID-19 VACCINATION?

The Australian Government’s COVID-19 free vaccination program for citizens, residents and most visa holders began in February 2021. The vaccines being used in Australia are effective and aimed at stopping the spread of the disease and reducing COVID-19 virus-related harm, preventing serious illness and loss of life, as much as possible. They are inactivated vaccines (not live) which are based on a harmless, non-replicating part of the virus to provoke an immune response in our bodies which will be remembered if we are ever exposed to the virus in the future.

VACCINE SCHEDULES

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that 3 of the earlier COVID-19 vaccines – Vaxzevria, Comirnaty and Spikevax - and now also the protein vaccine Nuvaxovid can be administered to adults aged 18 years and older. Adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years can have either of the mRNA vaccines. In all cases, it is recommended that the second dose is the same brand as the first (as long as no serious side effects were experienced).

The findings of relevant studies into using COVID-19 vaccines for younger children has allowed the TGA to grant provisional approval for an age-appropriate dose of the Comirnaty vaccine in the 5 to 11 years' age group. This was granted in early December and ATAGI has added its recommendations, with vaccinations to commence in this cohort from January 10, 2022. Two doses will be administered 8 weeks apart. On Feb 17, 2022, the TGA gave provisional approval for the use of Spikevax in children aged 6 to 11 years (0.25ml [50 micrograms] 2 doses at least 28 days apart). With final approval granted by ATAGI, the paediatric dose of Spikevax will be available for the cohort from Feb 24, 2022.  

AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria has a 2-dose vaccination schedule – minimum 4 weeks apart, but the recommendation is that the second dose is given 12 weeks after the first dose. 

Pfizer/BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine has a 2-dose primary vaccination schedule given 21 days apart, however ATAGI now recommends that 8 weeks elapse between the first and second doses.

Moderna's Spikevax also has a 2-dose vaccination schedule given 28 days apart, however ATAGI now recommends that 8 weeks elapse between the first and second doses.

As per ATAGI's April 29 (2022) update, 'The dose interval can be reduced (to a minimum of 3 weeks for Pfizer or 4 weeks for Moderna) for people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 (including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions), in an outbreak setting, or prior to international travel.' 

Novavax's Nuvaxovid vaccine has been provisionally approved by the TGA for use in people aged 18 years and above, given in a 2-dose schedule a minimum of 3 weeks apart (which can be extended to 8 weeks at the provider's discretion). 

There are other COVID-19 vaccines in use overseas which have been ‘recognised’ by the TGA as suitable for the purposes of travel to Australia, however the Dept. of Home Affairs makes final decisions on inbound travel.  

Booster doses:

Studies carried out at a population level, and in the context of recently emerged variants, found that for the best immune response, the Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) vaccines require a 2-dose primary course followed at least 3 months later by a booster dose in individuals aged 16 years and above. Whilst some limited protection against COVID-19 may be provided following the first 2 doses, this protection is not as robust, particularly against emerging virus variants. The booster dose encourages the body to create stronger and longer-lasting protection (immunity) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

In late December 2021, ATAGI recommended a booster (third) dose of Comirnaty in individuals aged 18 years and older a minimum of 3 months after the completion of a COVID-19 vaccine primary series in order to improve protection against the Omicron variant. Timing of the change was dependent on vaccine supplies. And on Jan 28, 2022, provisional approval was granted by the TGA for the booster dose to be extended to the 16 to 17 years age group - recommendations from ATAGI were released on Feb 3, 2022 which stated that 'booster vaccination with the 30 microgram Comirnaty (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine, for all adolescents aged 16-17 years who have previously received any TGA approved or recognised vaccines for their primary vaccine schedule, from 3 months after receiving their last primary dose. This includes those who were aged under 16 years when they received their last primary dose and are now aged 16 years'. Variations apply for those individuals in this age group who are are severely immunocompromised. Read more

In the case of Vaxzevria, (AstraZeneca) it is recommended that the booster dose following the 2-dose primary course is completed using a mRNA vaccine such as Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) (but can be with a 3rd dose of Vaxzevria if issues are experienced with the primary course, or an individual is unable to receive a mRNA vaccine). 

Higher risk groups: 

The advice from ATAGI, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, is that 'the timely receipt of a booster dose is particularly important for:

  • people with risk factors for severe disease (including those aged ≥60 years, those with underlying medical conditions, those in aged/disability care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples); and
  • people with increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. This may include those in an outbreak area, or those with a high risk of occupational exposure.' 

ATAGI added to its recommendations for severely immunocompromised individuals aged 5 years and above:

'Immunocompromised individuals who have received 3 primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are also recommended to have a booster dose in line with the timing for the general population, i.e., currently a 4-month interval from their primary course, and when capacity permits, 3 months. Read more 

Individuals are not considered to be fully protected until 7-14 days after their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

ATAGI announced the recommendations on the use of a fourth dose of COVID 19 vaccines for individuals who are severely immunocompromised. Severely immunocompromised individuals need four doses of vaccine to elicit a more robust and durable immune response. And from April 2022, ATAGI has recommended that certain groups can access a 'additional winter booster dose' -

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the  ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older.

Studies will continue into the duration of protection offered by the vaccines and the likely impact emerging virus variants will have on this.

PREGNANCY & BREASTFEEDING

COVID-19 infection during pregnancy has been found to present a higher risk to both the mother (for hospitalisation, ICU admission, requiring ventilation) and the baby (premature birth, stillbirth, care in neonatal unit). Vaccination is the best way to reduce these risks and global surveillance data from large numbers of pregnant women have not identified any significant safety concerns with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines given at any stage of pregnancy. Furthermore, there is also evidence of antibody in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity.

ATAGI recommends that pregnant women are routinely offered either of the mRNA vaccines at any stage of pregnancy, so, if you are planning pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding you can receive either of these COVID-19 vaccines at any time. You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination.

Vaccination does not affect fertility and getting vaccinated before conceiving means you will have some immunity against COVID-19 throughout your pregnancy.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS

As with any vaccine, some temporary side effects may occur after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Common side effects with either vaccine may include:

  • injection site pain or tenderness
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • fever and chills
  • joint pain

Uncommon side effects may include:

  • redness or swelling at the injection site
  • swelling or tenderness in the armpit
  • nausea/vomiting
  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • insomnia

Most side effects are mild and temporary, going away within 1-2 days. As with any medicine or vaccine, there may be rare and/or unknown side effects.

Rare side effects that may occur:

Severe allergic reaction – Anaphylaxis: is a very rare occurrence with all vaccines.

- VAXZEVRIA (AstraZeneca)

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)

Vaxzevria has been associated with a rare side effect (4-6 cases per million doses) called Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), also known as Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), which appears to be more frequently reported following the first dose. This thrombotic syndrome differs from common venous thrombo-embolic disease in that it is immune- mediated, rather than associated with the commonly known risk factors for thrombosis. It tends to occur in unusual sites resulting in cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and splanchnic vein thrombosis, both of which carry significant morbidity and mortality. TTS following Vaxzevria vaccination has occurred mostly in younger vaccine recipients (under 60 years of age).

- COMIRNATY (Pfizer)

Temporary one sided facial drooping (Bell’s Palsy), may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people.

- COMIRNATY (Pfizer) & SPIKEVAX (Moderna)

Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart) are very rare side effects which have more commonly been observed following the second dose of a mRNA vaccine and particularly in males aged under 30 years. Symptoms may include chest pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest, irregular/skipped heartbeats or ‘fluttering’, fainting, shortness of breath and pain when breathing. Most cases have mild symptoms and recover well and longer term follow up is continuing, however prompt medical attention should be sought if any of these symptoms present 1 - 5 days post-mRNA vaccination.

For individuals with a history of recent (i.e., within the last 3 months) myocarditis or pericarditis, acute rheumatic fever or acute rheumatic heart disease or acute decompensated heart failure, ATAGI’s advice is to consult with a GP, specialist immunisation service or cardiologist when planning vaccination. The Group has also recommended ‘People who have had confirmed myocarditis attributed to a dose of Comirnaty or Spikevax should defer further doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and if they are > 18 years can consider Vaxzevria on a case-by-case basis, after they have recovered from their symptoms’.

COVID-19 vaccination – Guidance on Myocarditis and Pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccines’ is available online from the federal Dept of Health website.

 

References:

 

Australian Government Department of Health, COVID-19 vaccines – Is it true? https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/is-it-true

NCIRS, COVID-19 Vaccines, Frequently asked questions: https://www.ncirs.org.au/covid-19/covid-19-vaccines-frequently-asked-questions

Australian Government Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines

Therapeutic Goods Administration, COVID-19 vaccines: https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-vaccines

RACGP: Australian study determines true asymptomatic COVID rate:   https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/australian-study-determines-true-asymptomatic-covi

Health Direct: Symptoms of COVID-19 and how the virus spreads | healthdirect

Australian government, Dept. of Health. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and COVID-19 vaccines:  https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/who-can-get-vaccinated/pregnant-women     

Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre, Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome: https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome/

TGA approves booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, COMIRNATY: https://www.tga.gov.au/media-release/tga-approves-booster-doses-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-comirnaty 

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1

European Medicines Agency: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/ema-recommends-nuvaxovid-authorisation-eu 

ATAGI Statement on the Omicron variant and the timing of COVID-19 booster vaccination: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-the-omicron-variant-and-the-timing-of-covid-19-booster-vaccination 

ATAGI statement on recommendations on a winter booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-recommendations-on-a-winter-booster-dose-of-covid-19-vaccine 

 

FAQs

How do I get a COVID19 vaccine passport?

From October 19, 2021, Australians have been able to access their International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates (ICVC) through the MyGov website; the Australian Passport Office has step-by-step instructions on the process.These certificates, which have QR codes that can be scanned by foreign border authorities and are linked to your passport, provide proof that the holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19. They are also compatible with IATA's Travel Pass, used by more than 200 airlines around the world. Not all countries will require this proof, so it is strongly advised to check the smartraveller website for more information on the destination. Read more.

Smartraveller has also published advice provided by CHOICE, the independent consumer advocate, on obtaining insurance for your travel - 'CHOICE travel insurance buying guide: COVID-19 edition'. Read more 

What are the international travel requirements for Australians going overseas?

The Australian Department of Home Affairs website provides details on the step by step process needed for travellers entering or leaving Australia. There are separate entries for checking the vaccination requirements, as well as a guide for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. Read more 

 

Smartraveller now has four travel advice levels with regards to health and safety overseas:

Further details can be found at:

What are the requirements for international travellers arriving in Australia?

From April 17, 2022 the biosecurity emergency pandemic measures came to an end. With this, negative pre-departure tests for travellers entering Australia will no longer be required. International travellers into and out of Australia will still be required to provide proof of double vaccination against COVID-19 and masks must be worn on international flights, based on medical advice. Read more

All passengers arriving into Australia must submit a Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD). You can start your DPD seven days before your flight and submit it within 72 hours prior to your departure for Australia when arriving by air. Complete the DPD here: Digital Passenger Declaration 

For full details read:  Requirements for Inbound Travel on the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs Smartraveller website.

Check this INTERACTIVE WORLD MAP for all countries' COVID-19 entry requirements.

Domestic travel within Australia

Up-to-date requirements for traveling interstate can be found at Australian Interstate Travel Advice.

This site covers all Australian states and territories and is updated as border changes occur.

 

Who can now get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Please go to the Australian Government Department of Health: Who can get vaccinated

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination services are available at many locations, including dedicated vaccine hubs, medical centres and pharmacies. Please go to the Australian Government Department of Health: Vaccination locations

or you can call the Coronavirus helpline if you need information about COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines – open 24 hours, 7 days on 1800 020 080.

How will I know when I need to get my booster shot?

Information has been provided by the Australian Health Department titled: Learn about booster doses for COVID-19 vaccines, who they are recommended for, when you need one and how to get it. Read more

And there is additional information in the Federal Department of Health's factsheet 'COVID-19 vaccine booster doses: common questions' - it includes answers to ‘Why do I need to have a booster dose if I have already had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine?’ and ‘What happens if I do not get a booster?’

Are we going to need to get boosters every year? Is it going to turn into a shot like the flu vaccine?

Evidence on the protection offered by boosters following the primary course is constantly under review and adjustments to the recommendations will apply as new information emerges. This is determined by duration of immunity after receiving booster doses in all age groups and for new variants that may emerge which require immunity to be boosted periodically.

Does having the COVID vaccination during pregnancy protect the newborn?

Key points

  • Pregnant people are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination and should be routinely offered (Pfizer) Comirnaty at any stage of pregnancy.
  • Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination.
  • Real-world evidence has shown that Comirnaty is safe for those who are pregnant and breast-feeding.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca can be considered for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy, if they cannot access Comirnaty and if the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks for that individual.
  • Those who are pregnant have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Their babies also have a higher risk of being born prematurely.
  • COVID-19 vaccination may provide indirect protection to babies by transferring antibodies through the placenta (for those who are pregnant) or through breast milk (for those who are breastfeeding).

Further details can be found at RANZCOG.

How do the vaccines work and what are the side effects?

  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty) – mRNA vaccine. The messenger RNA carries a genetic code for a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the spike protein, that is taken up by muscle cells. These cells use the code to make the spike protein and display it on the cells’ surface and, because it is foreign, this prompts our immune system to mount a response to the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (Vaxzevria) – viral vector vaccine. This contains a non-replicating, harmless virus like a common cold virus (adenovirus, the vector) which is used to carry the genetic code for the coronavirus’ spike protein. The vector virus enters our cells allowing them to make the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It is then expressed on the cell’s surface for our immune system cells to recognise and mount a response to it.
  • Moderna (Spikevax) - mRNA vaccine which uses the same technology as the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty). Read more
  • Biocelect/Novavax - protein subunit vaccine. In this type of vaccine, virus-like nanoparticles are used as a base and then covered with genetically engineered pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein which are then recognised by our immune system cells to mount a response. More about protein sub-unit vaccines from GAVI.

As with all vaccines, some minor side effects can be expected and they are usually mild and temporary. These are signs that your immune system is being activated.

Clinical trials have shown the most common side effects experienced were:

  • Injection site pain
  • Redness at the injection site
  • Fever, fatigue or muscle aches and pains
  • Headaches

Uncommon side effects may include:

  • redness or swelling at the injection site
  • swelling or tenderness in the armpit
  • nausea/vomiting
  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • insomnia

Most side effects are mild and temporary, going away within 1-2 days. As with any medicine or vaccine, there may be rare and/or unknown side effects.

Rare side effects that may occur:

Severe allergic reaction – Anaphylaxis: is a very rare occurrence with all vaccines.

VAXZEVRIA

Rare side effect - Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS)

COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca has been associated with a rare side effect (4-6 cases per million doses) called Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), also known as Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), which appears to be more frequently reported following the first dose. This thrombotic syndrome differs from common venous thrombo-embolic disease in that it is immune- mediated, rather than associated with the commonly known risk factors for thrombosis. It tends to occur in unusual sites resulting in cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and splanchnic vein thrombosis, both of which carry significant morbidity and mortality. TTS following COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination has occurred mostly in younger vaccine recipients (under 60 years of age).

COMIRNATY

Rare side effect:  - Temporary one sided facial drooping (Bell’s Palsy), may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people.

COMIRNATY & SPIKEVAX

Rare side effects:  – Myocarditis or Pericarditis

Symptoms may include:

  • chest pain
  • pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • irregular, skipped heartbeats or ‘fluttering’
  • fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • pain when breathing

Treatment 

  • Prompt medical attention should be sought if any of these symptoms present 1 - 5 days post-mRNA vaccination. Most cases have mild symptoms and recover well, however longer term follow-up is ongoing. 

See: Fact Sheets: Guidance on Myocarditis and Pericarditis after Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

The HealthDirect website has comprehensive advice on potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines:  After you get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Anyone who experiences a suspected side effect after vaccination is encouraged to report it to the clinic/provider where the vaccine was administered, or to contact the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) directly. (https://www.tga.gov.au/reporting-problems

Can the influenza or other vaccines be given at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that influenza vaccines and COVID-19 booster vaccine doses can be co-administered.

For co-administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines read the following Department of Health advice - Timing of administration of other vaccines 

Covid vaccination and Botox / Dermal Fillers

The protection offered from the vaccine is still believed to far outweigh the very rare risk of isolated cases of swelling from dermal fillers.

The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery recommends that patients already treated with dermal fillers could receive vaccines of any kind without concern. Clients who wish to have injected vaccines, does not affect them from receiving dermal fillers. Details can be found on the Wiley online library.

Do I still have to do 14 days quarantine if I return a negative COVID-19 test result?

Quarantine requirements following testing for COVID-19 infection vary according to the state or territory you are in. For more information, find the relevant links at Australia.gov.au.

Which types of settings does COVID-19 spread more easily?

The WHO names 3 settings where the virus that causes COVID-19 infection (SARS-CoV-2) spreads more easily – the risk is greater if these overlap:

  • Crowded places
  • Close-contact settings, especially where people have conversations very near each other
  • Confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

How long does it take for symptoms of the coronavirus disease to appear?

The incubation period of COVID-19 ranges from 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus and the timeframe between exposure and testing positive by PCR is from 3 to 5 days (for the Delta variant). The infectious period for COVID-19 is generally thought to be from 2 days before the onset of symptoms until 3 days after, although the length of the infectious period is shortened to a degree after completing a course of COVID-19 vaccines. Third vaccine doses (and boosters for some groups) are expected to help limit new infections and severe disease outcomes.

Read more in FAQs answered by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS).

When can a worker return to the workplace after a positive COVID-19 test?

Your public health unit and clinician will manage your health and the formal period of isolation if you return a positive COVID-19 test result, and they will also be the ones to advise on your return to work once you have recovered, in consultation with your employer. Read more

Is it possible to experience ongoing COVID-19 symptoms?

Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, has published a statement on ‘long Covid’, which is described as the syndrome resulting from the persistence of COVID-19 symptoms more than 12 weeks post-infection. You don’t need to have suffered severe disease in order to develop the syndrome. Prof. Kidd says that up to one in 10 people may be affected by long Covid following COVID-19 infection. Some of the symptoms experienced include extreme tiredness and fatigue, ‘brain fog’, persistent shortness of breath, lack of physical endurance, and depression. What can you do to minimise the risk of long Covid? High vaccination rates in the wider population will add to our herd immunity, limiting the number of people who become infected with COVID-19 and potentially develop long Covid.  

Further information can be found at Long Covid-19 Symptoms and University of NSW Long Covid Study

Will the current COVID-19 vaccines be effective against new variants of the virus?

As stated from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS)

 ‘Currently approved vaccines have been shown to be effective to provide at least some protection against new variants as these vaccines work to create a broad immune response. The mutations causing these variants should not make the vaccines ineffective.’ 

 

 

Do I need a booster shot if I have had a confirmed positive COVID-19 infection?

Guidelines on vaccination and boosters after testing positive for COVID-19 infection from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) are:

People who have had COVID-19 can be vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination can be deferred as past infection can reduce the chance of reinfection for a period of time - this can vary with the SARS-CoV-2 variant contracted.

In the ATAGI update of April 29, 2022, the advice relating to COVID-19 vaccination following a confirmed infection is to wait for 3 months before receiving the next scheduled dose. This applies to all age groups where COVID-19 vaccination is approved and 'regardless of how many COVID-19 vaccine doses they have received'. 

More information is available in ATAGI's Expanded Guidance on temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines.

You can also seek further advice from a specialist immunisation service if required.

Am I considered fully vaccinated if I don't have a booster dose after completing the primary course?

Your vaccinations are considered to be 'up to date' for travel to and from Australia if you have completed a course of a vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), including mixed doses.

Read more in the Federal Department of Health's factsheet 'COVID-19 vaccine booster doses: common questions' - it includes answers to ‘Why do I need to have a booster dose if I have already had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine?’ and ‘What happens if I do not get a booster?’

See the list of currently approved or recognised vaccines and dosages accepted for travel on the Department of Home Affairs - VACCINATED TRAVELLERS page.

What is 'herd immunity'?

'Herd immunity', also known as 'population immunity', is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. WHO supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.

See: Medical Journal of Australia - Herd immunity modelling

 

What is COVAX?

The Australian Government has joined the COVAX Facility as part of a global effort to support rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX is mobilising 2 billion doses for the world to address the acute phase of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Working for Global Equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines