Indian crescent society of Australia (ICSOA) organised an online panel discussion and question-answer (Q&A) session between doctors and the community on COVID-19 disease and vaccines on Saturday 14 August 2021 in Sydney.

The online event was attended by many Australians from diverse backgrounds, including representatives and office bearers of various community organisations.

Mr Fasihuddin Khan, secretary of ICSOA, welcomed everyone and provided a brief update on the event’s purpose, especially the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Sydney.

Mr Abbas Raza Alvi, President of ICSOA, explained that the objective and purpose of ICSOA is to integrate and have a collective voice for Indian Muslims in Australia, representing them on Indian platforms in Australia and contributing towards the welfare of Muslims in India. He further explained the need to organise such interactive sessions with health experts to help community members with any questions about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Dr Soliman Qurashi, Sydney based orthopaedic surgeon and member of the ICSOA health committee, welcomed and introduced ICSOA Health Committee members who participated in panel discussions such as Dr Abdul Ahad Khan (GP), Dr Zakir Akhunji (Cardiothoracic surgeon), Dr Shakeel Abbas (Pathologist and haematologist) and Dr Habib Bhurawala (Paediatrician).

He also introduced health experts such as Dr Mohamed Assoum (Infectious disease epidemiologist and public health researcher), Dr Ali Parappil (Respiratory and sleep physician), Dr Asif Raza (Intensive care and anaesthesia specialist), Dr Ahmed Al-Omary (General Medicine and infectious disease advanced trainee) and Dr Fariha Dib (General practitioner).

The question-answer session was moderated by Dr Habib Bhurawala, Paediatrician and Health co-ordinator of ICSOA. This session generated much interest from the audience.

The health experts answered a wide range of questions covering topics ranging from signs and symptoms of COVID-19, an overview of various treatments are available for COVID-19, treatment for COVID-19 in the intensive care unit (ICU), including ventilators.

They also explained the effectiveness of vaccination in reducing hospital admission, ICU admission and death.

They have strongly urged community members to follow current recommendations about vaccination and avoid delays in getting vaccinated to reduce their risk of hospitalisation and ICU admission due to COVID-19.

They have clarified various myths and misconceptions regarding vaccines and COVID-19, especially questions about the safety and efficacy of both Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines. Experts clearly explained and reassured the audience that the huge benefits provided by both currently available vaccines in Australia (Astra Zeneca and Pfizer) far outweigh the small risk of complications or adverse effects of vaccinations.

Community members were also urged not to delay treatment for other chronic medical conditions due to COVID-19. The experts highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.

There are various options to seek help from resources such as mental health helplines and contacting GP if anyone is concerned about mental health.

Community members were urged to keep regular contact with friends and families who may be experiencing stress and difficulties by reaching out and supporting each other during this difficult time.

The seminar program concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr Abbas Chelat, treasurer of ICSOA.