With the ongoing discussion in our community regarding the government response to COVID-19 and the misinterpretations and misinformation being shared, our office has been inundated with queries and concerns. In response, we have compiled Noosa Frequently Asked Questions (NFAQs) below, as well raised all COVID related concerns we’ve received with the Premier and the Chief Health Officer through official correspondence, parliamentary questions and/or speeches. Two of my recent speeches relating to COVID-19 and its impacts can be viewed at https://fb.watch/7M-YLsV57w/ and https://fb.watch/7M-XeiNFeZ/
Whilst the information below is current at time of posting, there are also various court cases underway throughout Australia on the legality of some mandates and restrictions. The information provides is from many legitimate sources and as individual circumstances may vary, any medical advice is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. For the most up-to-date Australian Government information relating to COVID-19 head to COVID-19 HEALTH ALERTS! Queensland Government latest updates can be found at Queensland Government COVID information. Frequently Asked Questions are on the Queensland Health website at Qld Health FAQs
You can also watch my interview regarding common COVID questions with Dr Ian Norton from Respond Global at https://www.facebook.com/SandyBoltonNoosa/videos/603135227799264/
Are measures such as lockdowns, social distancing and mask wearing the most appropriate way forward when weighed against the risks of COVID?
The Chief Health Officer is on the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) which is made up of 60 experts across multiple fields. All of these experts agree on the use of lockdowns, social distancing, mandatory mask wearing, check-in codes and increasing vaccination rates across all age groups as the best way of controlling the spread of COVID until enough of the population is vaccinated, see Qld Parliament Committees – Report 4
The Doherty modelling being utilised incorporates scenarios that include vaccination rates and the likely outcomes of hospitalisation/deaths at each stage – highlighting the need for double dose vaccination to be completed as early as possible, see Doherty Institute Covid Modelling
Why did the virus spread once the Queensland borders were opened?
The Omicron variant has moved the goal posts in many ways – being greatly more infections than previous variants – up to x3-4 that of Delta – which has meant that many previous measures had reduced efficacy against its spread and it is now reported that inevitably nearly everyone will be exposed to it sooner rather than later. Lockdowns were not utilised to manage the Omicron variant in Queensland as a ‘zero-covid’ or ‘covid-elimination’ policy is not achievable. Vaccination levels were utilised as CDC data suggests an overall reduction in death of x68 for the fully vaccinated (2 doses + booster) and x13 less change of testing positive for COVIC-19 – see CDC report.
Are masks effective?
Infection is transmitted predominantly by inhalation of respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk and breath. Masks provide a barrier that reduces both the emission to others and the reception of these droplets. There are observational and epidemiological studies that have shown that masks are effective in reducing the incidence of transmission, both in close quarters and in other settings. Further, economic analysis studies show that if universal mask wearing was increased by 15%, it could prevent the need for lockdowns, see Mask effectiveness.
If you are unsure of how to wear a mask, here is a good demonstration of how to fit one properly, see How to wear a mask
Why do they say cloth marks are less effective?
The infectivity of the Omicron variant has increased the importance of mask wearing to limit COVID-19 transmission and lessen the burden on hospitals. The advice now is that cloth masks, whilst popular are of very limited effectiveness compared to surgical masks. People occupationally exposed, such as health staff in aerosol generating areas, are now mandated to wear fitted and tested N95 or P2 masks. It goes without saying that wearing a mask of any type with the nose poking over the top is useless!
How can people be fully vaccinated, still catch COVID and pass it on to others?
Most vaccines in use today are designed to reduce disease and/or prevent people contracting a serious version of the disease. Very few vaccines induce “sterilising immunity” in the way that the smallpox vaccine did, which meant people couldn’t then carry the virus. However, people who have been double vaccinated carry a lower disease load and are less likely to develop a serious case of the disease and are unlikely to require hospitalisation, ICU admission and ventilation. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) state that vaccination against COVID-19 is the single most effective way to reduce severe illness and death from infection, see TGA vaccine info
What is Immunity?
Immunity consists of broadly two modes of action: ANTIBODIES which are the frontline and are found in contact surfaces like the airways and CELLULAR IMMUNITY which are white blood cells found within the body tissues. On initial contact, if the person has antibodies, then the virus is denied access to the body and they are unlikely to have symptoms. Once the virus penetrates the body tissues then symptoms arise and CELLULAR IMMUNITY kicks in with various white blood cells making antibodies or directly attacking virus affected cells. The latest NHS Technical Bulletin #34 demonstrates that effectiveness of antibody generation against Omicron is less effective than against Delta, but is increased by a booster dose. This explains why people are having mild-moderate Covid with symptoms even though vaccinated. Happily, CELLULAR IMMUNITY seems to remain potent even after a year against both Delta and Omicron variants thus reducing the chance of hospitalisation or death.
How can I access a vaccination and which type is available?
Who is eligible for Pfizer (Comirnaty) or Moderna (Spikevax) COVID-19 vaccine?
- All people aged 12 and over for Moderna (Spikevax) and all people aged 5 and over for Pfizer (Cormirnaty)
- The Moderna (Spikevax) vaccine is very similar in action to the Pfizer variant in that it is based on mRNA penetration of cells to stimulate production of spike protein
Who is eligible for AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) COVID-19 vaccine?
- People aged 60 years and over
- It is given as 2 doses given 4 to 12 weeks apart
- Any person over the age of 18 who has had a first does of this vaccine without any serious adverse events, or who has made an informed decision based on the understanding of the risks and benefits
Who is eligible for Novavax (Nuvaxovid)?
- People aged 18 years and over as a primary vaccine of two shots, 3 weeks apart. It is not presently approved as a booster dose or use in children.
- It differs from the 3 currently available vaccines in that it is based on the more traditional vaccine whereby components of the virus, in this case spike protein, is denatured and then injected stimulating the immune system against the spike protein. Some people prefer this modality over injections of DNA/RNA and have been waiting for this to become available.
- It is expected to be available by 21 February.
What is recommended for children’s vaccination?
- Moderna (Spikevax) is approved for use in children aged 12 years and over
- Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine is approved for all people aged 5 years and over. Over 12 years old it is given as 2 doses 3 to 6 weeks apart. In 5 to 11 years age range it is given as 2 reduced doses of 1/3 the adult dose, 8 weeks apart.
- Both ATAGI and the CDC recommend vaccination in children
There are a number of ways to get vaccinated: via pharmacies such as Priceline in Tewantin and Terry White in Noosa, various GP’s including Sunny Street in Tewantin, or you can register for the vaccine here Qld Health – Register for Vaccination.
Vaccination hubs that have been set up on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane are listed here Vaccination locations
This website is pretty handy for finding pharmacy and doctors who have vaccines available Vaccination Clinic Finder Near Me
Most clinics and pharmacies are operating on the weekends, and the site above allows you to click on each clinic or pharmacy near you, it also states which vaccines they carry and whether you have to make a booking or if you can walk in.
For further information on these vaccines go to How COVID-19 vaccines work
How safe are the vaccines and what are the reported adverse reactions?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is the body who approves vaccine and medicine use as safe in Australia. They produce a weekly safety report on any adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines, which can be accessed here TGA vaccine reports
Alternative sources for information can be obtained from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) at COVID-19 vaccines: Frequently asked questions | NCIRS.
The Australian Government has produced factual information regarding several myths circulating on social media about cures and treatments for coronavirus – you can check these here COVID-19 Mythbusting (australia.gov.au)
How many current COVID-19 cases are in hospitals and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) across Australia?
You can get an updated graph daily at COVID-19 hospitalisation data
Queensland statistics are available at Queensland Covid-19 statistics
NSW Health have provided data for hospitalisation and death by vaccination status for the period 16 June to 14 August 2021, detailing the results for 923 people. The full report can be accessed at NSW Covid outcomes
How long have the Chief Health Officer’s health emergency powers been extended to?
The additional powers that were given to the CHO when the COVID pandemic struck in March 2020 have again been extended by the Government to the end of April 2022, even though the Crossbench and the Opposition asked for an earlier end. The Minister for Health has stated that these powers are not permanent, and that if the public health emergency caused by COVID-19 no longer poses a significant risk, then these powers will be terminated early. The current Public Health Directions expire 26 December 2021 although the emergency powers expire in April 2022. To check the latest updates, go to Qld Health.
Why are lockdowns UTILISED?
The modelling from Queensland Health and the Doherty Institute has shown that short-sharp lockdowns can work towards limiting the number of people who fall ill until such time as ‘herd immunity’ through an immunisation rate of 95% and past-infection can be achieved. Queensland has had several of these, and they have so far helped, in amongst other directives, to stop a widespread outbreak that could lead to a 4-month lockdown as seen in Victoria, or the current ongoing lockdown in New South Wales. Further information can be found at the Queensland Parliament Economics and Governance Committee Qld Parliament Committees -Report 11; and Doherty Institute Covid Modelling
Lockdowns are not currently being utilised in many parts of the world. Initially they were utilised either as a zero-Covid containment or elimination strategies and then later as a means to slow the rate of infections to avoid overloading health care systems. With the high rates of vaccination in Queensland, social distancing and mask wearing, it seems likely that future lockdowns won’t be necessary.
What level of vaccination is required across the community to bring an end to further lockdowns?
The Federal Government has stated that 80% of the eligible cohort who can be vaccinated must have received both doses and then restrictions will be lifted. Even then there might be “targeted” lockdowns as needed. See National Plan COVID response At time of writing the Queensland Government has not set its pathway to reopening with other states – but Western Australia and Tasmania have indicated they are willing to wait for a vaccination rate of 90% – however the Queensland Premier has not confirmed her government’s plans even though this has been requested.
How is the government able to ensure that the emergency powers aren’t being abused?
The CHOs delegated emergency powers are dependent on the Minister’s declaration of a public health emergency. At any point in time, the elected government officials can declare that the public health emergency has ended, and the CHO no longer has emergency powers. See Qld Parliament – Health Minister speech
Why aren’t other drugs like Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin being used?
The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce recommend against the use of Hydroxychloroquine for treatment unless it is under a controlled clinical trial with safety monitoring protocols. This is due to its documented risks including cardiac toxicity, irreversible eye damage, severe depletion of blood sugar levels and the lack of efficacy hence it is not considered as a treatment or preventative. With Ivermectin – there is currently insufficient data from clinical trials for the TGA to approve its use for COVID-19 in Australia, although further research and trials are underway, particularly by Oxford University (PRINCIPLE Project) whose findings should be released in several months, see Clinical Evidence Taskforce
Are the measures being enacted by the Chief Health Officer lawful and do they contravene Federal Laws?
The Federal Minister has utilised the emergency powers granted to him after Australia’s Governor-General declared a “human biosecurity emergency” pursuant to section 475 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth), so he is allowed to do whatever is needed including to regulate or restrict the movement of persons and goods, and require that places be evacuated or closed, see Biosecurity Act 2015 powers
Qld has similar laws under the Public Health Act 2005. In essence, the two sets of laws are complementary, not inconsistent. The Chief Health Officer has additional powers (under section 7A) and can order or direct her emergency officers to restrict the movement of persons; require quarantine; restrict contact; close facilities – see Public Health Act 2005
For those asking about the difference between mandates and laws, mandates are quickly implemented to face a specific situation, limited in time. A law is a long-term rule, voted by the elected representatives, and that often take more time to be created. Both are enforceable by the police, but they respond to different situations. Mandates are often used to deal with emergency situations and in the case of QLD are given authority through the declaration of the State of Emergency.
The Fair Work Commission recently made a determination in the case of Kimber vs Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care Ltd where they concluded that mandatory vaccination is a lawful direction in NSW due to their requirements for aged care facilities, and also found that it would have been reasonable to expect the employee to get vaccinated so she could perform the inherent requirements of her job. The full determination can be found at Fair Work Commission decision
Doesn’t the Nuremburg Code, to which Australia is a signatory, outlaw the forced use or coercion of an experimental medical treatment?
The Nuremburg Code laid down 10 standards to which physicians must conform when carrying out experiments on human subjects – including ethical constraints on avoiding unnecessary suffering/injury and ensuring voluntary informed consent. Giving people an approved vaccine (i.e. not experimental), with their consent, does not relate to the Nuremburg Code, see Nuremberg Code 10 standards. In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has reviewed and approved the following vaccines:
- AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) – 15/2/21
- Janssen-Cilag (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen) – 25/6/21 (not included in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program)
- Pfizer (Comirnaty) – 22/7/21
- Moderna (Spikevax) – 3/9/21
- Novavax (Nuvaxovid) – 20/1/22
These are all provisionally approved for use for two years and each manufacturer is subject to strict conditions including the requirement for them to continue providing information to the TGA on longer-term efficacy and safety from ongoing clinical trials and post-market assessment.
What about the Australian Constitution?
Section 188 relates to the Recognition of laws of states – stating that full faith and credit shall be given, throughout the Commonwealth, to the laws, the public Acts and records, and the judicial proceedings of every State and section 69 also gives the Commonwealth the control of military defence and the responsibility for quarantine. Some people have stated that Section 109 of the Australian Constitution is being contravened as State Statutes and Laws and their operation are subservient to their equivalent Federal Laws. This only occurs to the extent of the inconsistency of the state law, not the whole law. That is, where the two laws are at odds with each other – and in the case of emergency powers, the two laws are consistent, so this section doesn’t apply, see Australian Constitution
What about the Queensland Constitution?
Section 8 provides for law-making power in Queensland to make laws that affect residents and section 51 provides for the powers of the state through Executive Government to enact these laws, see Queensland Constitution
WHY Do over 70s have to stay at home?
The Premier has recommended that unvaccinated people over 70 years of age and other people in vulnerable categories who cannot wear masks should limit their trips to public places where there is community transmission, but no formal public health directive has been issued to this effect.
Which workers are required to have mandatory vaccinations?
National Cabinet agreed that residential aged care workers must have obtained their first dose of a COVID vaccination by 17 September 2021 to be able to continue to work in the sector, then double-dose by 31 October 2021 – see Aged Care mandatory vaccination
The Queensland Government has determined that all Queensland Health employees who work in or enter a facility where care is provided must be double-dose vaccinated by 31 October 2021.
All truck drivers entering Queensland from another state must be vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by 15 October 2021 and their second dose or booking for a second dose by 15 November 2021.
Police officers and staff must have received their first dose by 4 October 2021 and be double-dosed by 23 January 2022 – Qld Police Service vaccine
There is ongoing public discussion now about whether other businesses can require their workers to be vaccinated, however the Prime Minister has said this is a decision for individual employers to make. The Fair Work Commission in a 2:1 majority decision has upheld the termination of an employee who would not have a mandatory vaccination and confirmed the view that the effect of Public Health Orders may be that an employee is not able to perform the inherent requirements of their role in light of limited exemptions and confirms that employers can be justified in terminating employment in such circumstances. Determination can be found here Fair Work Commission decision
Why are 12-16 year old children having to wear masks now when they didn’t before?
The Public Health Mandatory Face Marks Directives 1 (January 2021) and 2 (March 2021) both stated that over 12s should be wearing masks. Proper masks were difficult to obtain during the first part of the pandemic in 2020, as most were produced in China, so there was no mandate. With the Delta strain demonstrated to infect people more rapidly and with less contact, including children, mask-wearing has become one of the lines of defence people can use to reduce spread. Mandatory Face Masks Directive
The QHRC (Qld Human Rights Commission) have advised that the Human Rights Act obligates public entities to take positive steps to protect rights, which includes the right to life. Directives which mandate the wearing of masks are in line with these obligations and will not constitute an unreasonable limitation on the rights of individuals. QHRC Covid Human Rights Info
Will the government put a requirement for a vaccination passport to access travel, restaurants and events?
Currently, vaccination passports have not been implemented. However, the Federal Government is signalling this it is a possibility in the future, especially with vaccination requirements for certain entrants to some states including WA and QLD. Other countries such as France have implemented , however National Cabinet have not made a determination . The University of Queensland has posted an interpretation of the law, which can be read here UQ vaccination passport opinion
ARE OTHER COUNTRIES MANDATING VACCINATIONS?
In April 2021, the World Health Organisation has released a policy brief that lists the ethical considerations and caveats that countries should apply when deciding on COVID-19 mandatory vaccination, including decisions about necessity and proportionality from a public health perspective, evidence of vaccine safety and efficacy, supply and public trust, see WHO mandatory vaccination considerations
Globally there are a number of countries which stipulate that mandatory vaccination, and/or mandatory provision of negative test results for access to work and social venues are applied. These include Australia, Britain, Canada, Fiji, France, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and parts of the United States of America – see Factbox – Countries with Mandatory Vaccination
ARE COVID-19 VACCINES A FORM OF GENE THERAPY?
There are two types of COVID-19 vaccines being used in Australia. The vector vaccine, such as AstraZeneca, works by presenting a single protein (a spike protein) that appears on the surface of the virus into the body’s immune system. This allows the body to develop antibodies against the protein, so that if the body encounters the same protein again (within a person who has the covid virus) the immune system can recognise it and react. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a determined harmless virus that has been altered to have the virus protein on its surface.
The other type is an mRNA vaccine, including Pfizer and Moderna, which contains the messenger molecule which is in all cells – mRNA. This messenger molecule administered via the vaccine delivers the instructions into the body about how to make the protein, whereby the cells in the body build the spike protein which the immune system can then recognise and respond to.
Neither are gene therapy, which involves making deliberate changes to a patient’s DNA in order to cure or alleviate a genetic condition, done by adding a functional copy of a gene or disabling a gene that is not working properly. Gene therapies can have long-lasting effects because they permanently change a cell’s DNA.
As the mRNA vaccines do not enter the cell nucleus or interact with the DNA, they do not make permanent changes to the body, and once they have triggered an immune response against the virus they disappear from the body.
QR CODES, THE CHECK IN QLD APP AND PRIVACY
The Check in Qld app is a contactless way for people to check in at events and venues in Queensland whereby people scan a QR code which confirms the date and time that they and their guests were present. It is a voluntary app, but if anyone chooses not to use it then their presence must be registered at the venue by another means, such as a sign-in sheet.
Previously there was one case where the Queensland Police Service had accessed information collected on the app, but only did so after being granted a formal warrant. In response to my questions regarding privacy and the QLD App, the Privacy Commissioner has said that he is pursuing further legislative safeguards and is also asking for a release of the privacy impact assessments that were completed as part of the design process for the check in app – see Hearing – Oversight of the Information Commissioner