Lights back and keep vaccinating
WINTER has certainly shown us its power last week. With heavy rain and gusty wind, it left behind fallen trees, cracked roofs, flooded rivers, and thousands of buildings without electricity. By the time you read this article, hopefully you have been able to bring back some comfort at home.
At times like this we need to take extra care to try to stay warm and dry, to prevent hypothermia; be safe with fire and fuel, avoid burns, scalds, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is not an infrequent accident. It most often occurs with open-fueled stoves or gas heaters, especially when the room is better sealed. CO is colourless, odourless and generally non-irritating. When inhaled, it replaces oxygen in the blood, to which the brain and nervous system, the heart, and the unborn baby is most vulnerable. CO poisoning may cause symptoms including tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, nausea, dizziness, impaired vision, or confusion. Children, pregnant women, older people, and people with chronic illness are at increased risk. If you experience any of the above symptoms, immediately open all windows and doors, go outside, and seek medical attention. Remember, half of the amount of CO would still be in room air after 4 hours, so keeping it well ventilated for a longer time is important.
Also be mindful that food in the unpowered fridge or freezer might have gone off. As a general rule, the refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Any frozen food that is no longer frozen hard and with ice crystals on the inside of the packaging should be discarded. Also remember that poisoning can still occur even when the food is well cooked.
Last Thursday, we at the Medical Centre painfully observed firsthand how quickly the temperature can rise, even in the fridges built to keep medicines and vaccines.
The power outage threatened a ‘cold chain breach’, which means the temperature falls outside the range where vaccines should be stored. Fortunately, with the help from the South Gippsland Hospital and the Prom Country Aged Care, we safely rescued most of the stocks, including all COVID vaccines. And we vaccinated everyone that has booked and were able to come in last Thursday and Friday.
However, running the clinic without electricity was a challenge and quite an experience. It struck us how much we rely on modern technology. Appointments were restricted to daylight hours, and the paper prescription pads were brought back from storage. Many of the consultations could only deal with matters on hand, as access to medical records and results were restricted.
We thank our patients for being so understanding and accommodating. However, if you have visited the clinic last Thursday and felt there were issues unattended, please let us know and make a follow up appointment.
We wouldn’t have been able to keep our doors open on those days, without the help of a great team of admin, nursing, and medical staff; those who came to work in the dark on Thursday, and those who dealt with the aftermath on Friday and Saturday. Special thanks to the volunteers/spouses, and people who helped behind the scene.
We were lucky in Foster Medical Centre, where power was restored on Thursday night. Nancy, our nurse manager, has back-ordered the supplies lost to the power outage. This week, we resume business as usual. We have enough COVID, flu, whooping cough, and most of the other vaccines. However, if you have booked in for routine childhood immunization, please check with the nurses before you come in.
As for COVID vaccines, there has been more positive news. A recent real-life survey from 383,812 participants across the UK, between December 2020 to May 2021, shows that the second dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine helps to increase protection of symptomatic infections from 61 to 79 percent. And there is no evidence of difference in efficacy between the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
On Wednesday 9 June, the regulatory bodies RANZCOG (Obstetricians) and ATAGI announced their recommendation, thanks to the large body of safety data worldwide, that pregnant women are now routinely offered the Pfizer vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. This is also because the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection is significantly higher for both the expecting mothers and their unborn baby. Furthermore, there is evidence of antibody in cord blood and breast milk, which may offer protection to infants through passive immunity. Women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination. Please talk to your doctors if you are planning, or currently pregnant.
ATAGI has also updated their advice on flu vaccine. Now the minimum interval between a dose of the flu vaccine and a dose of either Astra Zeneca or Pfizer COVID vaccine is 7 days (previously 14 days).
The Medical Centre is currently allocated 200 doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccines each week, plus the doses needed for the second jab, which commence on Wednesday the 16th.
Generally speaking, there are fewer side effects after the second, compared to the first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine; the opposite seems to apply to Pfizer vaccine. The chance of developing a rare blood clotting complication from the Astra Zeneca vaccine remains at an extremely low rate of 4-6 per million.
Given the reassuring data, we again strongly recommend you to receive a COVID vaccine, not only to protect yourself, your family, and other vulnerable people, but it may also help the economy to recover by speeding up the border opening process.
Anyone over the age of 40 is eligible to receive the COVID vaccine anywhere in Victoria. If you are under 50, the Pfizer vaccine is preferred. Currently the closest centres are in Wonthaggi and Traralgon. This may be extended in the near future. Please check the Health Department’s website, or call the hotline 1800 675 398. However, under 50 year-olds can also choose to have the AstraZeneca vaccine in Foster Medical Centre. Online bookings are open for Thursdays, through HotDocs. But please feel free to call or visit the clinic to book in for other days.
Our respiratory clinic is also back in action. Please keep reminding each other to get a swab if there is any respiratory symptom.
Although winter struck us hard, our community has fought back stronger. We’ve heard a lot of heartwarming stories of people offering their neighbours shower and shelter, friends and relatives staying with the elderly, shops and organisations offering free meals and services to those in need, and much more. Please keep looking out for each other, and try to keep all of us safe and healthy.