THE COVID Australian landscape has changed and for once Victoria isn’t the state in lockdown. As was the case when we were though, the need for vaccinating the population as quickly and as safely as possible has again been highlighted nationally. But hasn’t that simple message been made more complicated and messier than it should be!
We like the quote from the Guardian journalist Margaret Simons “…politicians, public figures and journalists should consider that just because we are free to speak doesn’t always mean we should.” We wish.
There is a plethora of information out there in the news and social media and it can be difficult to keep up. We will attempt to try to keep our community up to date and to help you navigate the vaccine landscape. Please be aware, however, that the information WE get is sometimes less than timely and there are lots of previous examples where we get informed after the general media outlets!
We rely on health.gov.au which is constantly being updated and revised. The Eligibility Checker will quickly identify whether you are eligible and if you follow the links will lead to where the nearest vaccination centre is and how to book in.
Local news first.
At Foster Medical Centre we have been able to obtain an increased allotment of AstraZeneca vaccines (after weeks of trying!). For our 60 years and over patients, we are taking bookings for this vaccine via the receptionists at the clinic. Just ring up and book in.
We also now finally have the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 40-59 and those younger people who meet the 1b) criteria. To book in for this you will need to follow the links through the Eligibility Checker at health.gov.au and into HotDocs. We will be starting off giving this vaccine on Saturday the 10th July at the clinic. We will open more sessions and advertise these through the Facebook page, web page and through The Mirror. Please do fill in all the information online prior to your Pfizer vaccination as this will speed up delivery considerably on the day and please do NOT ring the clinic for an appointment. Appointments for Pfizer only through HotDocs at this stage.
“So which vaccine?”
To make bookings easier and for a simple message to the public the above paragraph is what our receptionists will follow (please be kind on them! Their job during an ever-changing vaccine-rollout is unenviable!
We follow health.gov.au which is a reliable and comprehensive resource constantly updated and revised.
A broad summary (at the time of writing!) is that anyone over the age of 40 is now eligible for a COVID vaccine, but if you are between the ages of 18-39 you can now choose to have the AstraZeneca vaccine “following an appropriate risk/benefit assessment and consent process” (ATAGI).
This is where it all gets a bit murky for the public.
ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) stated that “the medical advice on which vaccine to get – Pfizer or AstraZeneca – has not changed. The Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred vaccine for people under 60. However, under new arrangements, access to the AstraZeneca vaccine is being expanded to adults under 40 – provided they give informed consent.”
And “AstraZeneca is highly effective in protecting people against the serious health effects of COVID-19 – including death. It is locally produced and readily available in Australia. Currently we have adequate supplies of AstraZeneca to vaccinate all eligible people.
Making AstraZeneca available to a wider section of the population will give informed younger people the option to be vaccinated as Australia enters this next critical stage of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Notwithstanding the above, they then conclude with “Practitioners should continue to advise people on the preferred vaccine for their age – AstraZeneca for over 60s, and Pfizer for under 60s.” This recommendation is based on older adults having a lower risk of TTS (Thrombocytopenic Thrombosis Syndrome, the serious but rare side effect of AZ) and a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
So it’s a little more complicated and nuanced than we will deliver at the front desk. Informed patient choice does come into it with the AZ.
Please note also that if you have had one dose of AZ then the second dose should also be AZ as the risk of TTS is much lower again for the second dose. (Again, there is a lot of media ‘noise’ about mix and matching…although it is possible there will be changes to this, at present there is not enough data to make this a recommendation).
There is a lot of useful and easy to read/digest information on that website (health.gov.au) to help with your decision on vaccines, and please do not hesitate to also ask your doctor. Locally we are doing reasonably well with our vaccination coverage although it is still early days and still approximately 150 patients over 80 have not been vaccinated for one reason or another. We remind readers that there are very few absolute medical reasons not to be vaccinated. And until the vast majority of the world is vaccinated the COVID pandemic will continue, with all its multiple consequences.