Nurse among the first Aussies to receive virus vaccine
After dedicating her life to helping others, most recently on the COVID-19 frontline, nurse Rachel Hogben will become one of the first Victorians to receive the vaccine on Monday.
As the nurse unit manager at Dandenong Hospital, run by Monash Health, the 18-year nursing veteran has been in charge of co-ordinating much of the hospital's coronavirus response - including splitting the intensive care unit in two to accommodate about 350 possible virus patients.
"At Dandenong we saw around about 36 patients that were COVID positive but we had a much larger throughput in our ICU, because we also treated every patient (as positive) until they returned positive or negative," Ms Hogben said.
"It was quite frightening at the beginning. We didn't know what to expect or how long this would be in front of us."
Ms Hogben, a mum-of-two, said there had been many trying moments, both physically and mentally, over the past 12 months.
She said it had been tough asking her staff to front up for work on the COVID ward when many had families of their own to worry about.
"We do good infection prevention every day but there was a layer of fear that made it that bit harder," Ms Hogben said.
"It was really difficult knowing that they (staff) were doing 12 hour days in PPE and it was very isolating because we didn't want to put people (such as grandparents) at risk."
She said she was "very grateful" for the arrival of the vaccine, which she will receive at 7.30am on Monday, and the hope it provided to the community.
"I'm really excited about the vaccine, and also very relieved," Ms Hogben said.
"My parents are fit and well but they're in their 60s. It makes you reflect on who in your family is vulnerable.
"I feel that there's far more hope now."
COVID IMMUNE RESPONSE LASTS MONTHS
The immune systems of people who suffer from mild Covid symptoms are still mounting an evolving defence against the virus up to four months after infection, new research has found.
And the immune systems of kids are far better at quickly fighting off the virus than adults - some so strongly they never return a positive test while infected - a separate study has uncovered.
Melbourne researchers have picked apart what happens in the immune systems of Covid patients in the first few months after getting sick.
These are crucial understandings for the development of treatments and preventions against Covid.
Dr Jennifer Juno, from the Doherty Institute and University of Melbourne, said after probing samples from 64 former patients they found that while the initial immune response dropped quickly after the first couple of months, a specific type of immune fighting cell called B cells - which produce the antibodies that recognise virus cells as foreign - continued to be produced in increasing large numbers.
"We're very excited to consider these results in the context of how these B cells might be protective in reinfection, and what role they might play down the line," Dr Juno said.
"That should be useful for protection in the event of another exposure, in the sense that those 'memory' cells should be able to be activated again.
"While we still don't know how much antibody you actually need to be protected, either through a vaccine or through natural infections, the recent results from phase 3 vaccine trials should soon allow us to understand how long natural immunity should last.
"The data coming out from the vaccine trials suggests a number of vaccine candidates are inducing antibody and immune responses that are more than two times higher from the vaccines, than what we've seen from individuals who have recovered from the infection."
The findings come as other Melbourne research shows children are protected from severe Covid infections because their immune systems are better at rapidly attacking the virus compared to adults.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute analysed blood samples from 28 Melbourne families - including 48 children and 70 adults - who were infected with, or exposed to, the virus.
They found children activated different cells in different ways to adults when their immune system was confronted with the virus.
"This suggests these infection-fighting immune cells are migrating to infection sites, quickly clearing the virus before it has a chance to really take hold," said Dr Melanie Neeland.
"Understanding the underlying age-related differences in the severity of COVID-19 will provide important insights and opportunities for prevention and treatment, both for COVID-19 and possible future pandemics."
Originally published as Nurse among the first Victorians to receive virus vaccine