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Learn latest on COVID-19 vaccines at online forum

• South Gippsland Hospital CEO Paul Greenhalgh tests the online COVID-19 vaccine community information forum computer technology link with SGH executive assistant Emmah Welsh, on screen at left, and SGH Director of Nursing Claire Kent, right.
By Dr Trevor Andrews

LEARN the very latest about COVID-19 vaccines and the value and purpose of vaccination at a free online community information forum to be held on Thursday evening September 9, 2021 starting at 7.30 pm.

Jointly presented by Foster’s South Gippsland Hospital (SGH) in Foster, the Foster and Toora Medical Centres, and the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU), the forum is open to everyone from throughout the Corner Inlet district and beyond.

The forum will feature a panel of speakers including two SGH Board Directors, Professor Jim Buttery and Associate Professor Priscilla Robinson, Foster and Toora Medical Centres’ Associate Dr Phil Worboys, and a GRPHU representative.

SGH chief executive officer Paul Greenhalgh will be the forum’s master of ceremonies.

Mr Greenhalgh said the aim of the forum is to offer the community the most up-to-date and, importantly, accurate global knowledge about COVID-19 and the vaccines that have been developed to control the virus and its spread.

“The Hospital, the Medical Centres and the GRPHU are working collaboratively to give community members the chance to learn as much as they can about COVID-19 from internationally-recognised epidemiologists, and local and regional health professionals,” he said.

“Our panel will present on current global data and trends, the Australian response to COVID-19, and what’s happening in the Gippsland region as well as right here in our own local area,” Mr Greenhalgh said.

“This online event will allow those who may be sitting on the fence about being vaccinated themselves to hear from our subject matter experts and to ask questions about the vaccines and their safety through the Microsoft Teams platform.”

The link to the online community COVID-19 vaccine forum will be available on the SGH website https://southgippslandhospital.com.au/

Forum panel member and University of Melbourne Professor of Child Health Informatics, Professor Buttery is an infectious diseases paediatrician and vaccine safety researcher and is the Head of Epidemiology and Signal Detection of the Victorian Immunisation Safety Service SAFEVIC.

He is also an executive member of the Global Vaccine Data Network.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are free, are voluntary and save lives,” Professor Buttery said.

“We know that the more people who are vaccinated, the greater the protection for those vaccinated and the whole community more broadly.”

Panel speaker Associate Professor Robinson’s 30-year career in public health epidemiology saw her specialise in communicable diseases and international health.

She currently supervises research students, teaches and investigates public health topics and, since the start of the pandemic, has studied COVID-19 rates of disease and immunisation around the world.

Rural General Practitioner Dr Worboys has lived and worked in the Corner Inlet district for more than three decades and has been the Medical Centres’ chief spokesman on COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year.

He is helping to coordinate the medical practice’s present COVID-19 vaccination program.

The GRPHU is based at Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon and is responsible for managing and responding to public health issues right throughout the region, from Longwarry to the New South Wales border, including South Gippsland.

GRPHU Operations Manager Annelies Titulaer said the Unit’s “current focus includes end-to-end COVID-19 contact tracing, case and contact follow-up and support, and rapid new case response and outbreak management.

“Our aim is to strengthen the public health response to COVID-19 in Gippsland and to build strong relationships with community partners, general practitioners and other hospital-based services,” she said.

“We also strive to be closer to, and more engaged with, our local communities.”

During the COVID-19 forum the GRPHU representative will supply a summary of the organisation’s vaccination operations throughout the region. 

SGH Director of Nursing Claire Kent said “it’s so pleasing to see how South Gippslanders have been rolling up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines.

“So far more than 65 per cent of eligible community members have received their first vaccination dose,” she said.

“We are keen to see this steadily increase over the next couple of months.”   

For the latest vaccine information from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine

To book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment at the Foster Medical Centre, please ring 5682 2088.

The Leongatha Community Vaccination Clinic is located in the Leongatha Hospital’s  IPCC building, with appointments available on 1800 675 398 or make a booking via the portal at https://portal.cvms.vic.gov.au/

“We want to encourage everyone in our community to log on and join the COVID-19 vaccine forum so they can hear for themselves what our own locally-connected, highly-qualified people know,” Mr Greenhalgh said.

“Of course the best person to talk to in person if you have concerns about your health, and being vaccinated against COVID-19, is your doctor or regular health professional.”

Find the link to the online community COVID-19 vaccine forum link to be held at 7.30 pm on Thursday September 9, 2021 on the SGH website at www. southgippslandhospital. com.au/

Adjust plans accordingly for COVID-19

ANOTHER week in the pandemic brings a change in policy from the Premier and his Health advisors.

With rising case numbers due to the highly contagious Delta variant of the Covid virus the State Government is no longer aiming for Elimination and Covid zero in Victoria. And the Lockdown is being extended for another few weeks.

It’s a time to be flexible and adjust plans accordingly.

So far, we have been very fortunate in Corner Inlet with no cases but this could change in coming weeks. Vaccination becomes an even more important way to protect yourself and our community.

Since the first batch of vaccines arrived at Foster in late March, there has been a reliable weekly supply and we have been busy administering them—7193 of which 2756 are second doses and 4437 first doses; a great response from the local community. A big shout out to all our clinic nurses who have stepped up to meet the increased workload and our office staff arranging a reliable and seamless appointment system. After a second dose you can access your “MyGov” account to obtain a Vaccination certificate, something that maybe required in the future.

We have 800 bookings (mostly filled) for this week and are always adding more sessions to meet the demand. There are about 2000 doses combined of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer in the fridges waiting for an arm, so if you haven’t had a vaccine yet please make an appointment. Those people aged over 60 waiting for the Pfizer vaccine should re-consider their decision as we have no indication when it will be available for this age group. In line with changes state-wide we are now re-scheduling AZ vaccine second dose at 6 weeks, not 12 as previously. If you already have an AZ second dose appointment, please keep this one.

Furthermore, some reassuring real-world studies (not trials) have come from UK this winter demonstrating very effective protection against serious Covid disease after 2 doses of both vaccines; Pfizer 96% and AstraZeneca 92%. And it appears the AZ vaccine protection is not waning at all over 3 months of the study. ICU admissions (many young adults) in Victoria during this outbreak are all unvaccinated people.

On another note, it’s important not to ignore our general health and remember the clinic is operating normally. Anyone with a cold or cough is seen at the separate ‘rail trail’ end of the clinic to be properly assessed by a nurse or doctor, well away from the waiting room/reception area.

Lockdown rules are tough for everyone so remember to keep in touch with friends and relatives by any means. Let’s hope regional Victoria gets some relaxation of restrictions this week as promised and reduces the social isolation of everyone.

General practice has changed over the years, using more sophisticated technology to improve patient care. In 1992 Foster Medical Centre had 5 doctors, 1 practice nurse and paper patient records. Now we have 19 doctors, 9 practice nurses, over 20 office staff, numerous computers for the patient records and 2 happy chooks in the garden!

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