Mirror Article for Sept 15

Victoria continues to battle the delta outbreak and the numbers do not seem to be decreasing quickly. Those in lockdown in the city are looking at further weeks of hardship and we hope our easing of restrictions in country Victoria is not a temporary one. It is worth noting that around 85 per cent of all active cases in Victoria are aged under 50, and that last Thursday, of the Victorians who were hospitalised due to COVID, 99 were unvaccinated, 12 were partially vaccinated and NONE were fully vaccinated. This, along with the deaths in NSW of younger people than what we saw last year (the older having higher vaccination rates), serves to underline the importance of COVID vaccinations. The pandemic is changing; we are seeing more and more evidence of it becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

At the Medical Centre we are pleased to report that people continue to roll up for their vaccinations in large numbers. We are giving about 100 each weekday and more than twice that on a Saturday. Since Monday 13th, we will be giving the Pfizer vaccine to children over the age of 12yo which will no doubt continue to keep our sessions full. We have said it before: it is inevitable that COVID-19 will come to our area. With the delta strain so contagious and the numbers in the city areas climbing, it is really only a question of when and how. Our medical staff are all of the belief that the best way we can help protect the community is through getting as many people vaccinated before that happens. 

Locally we seem to be doing pretty well despite knowing there is long way to go. Current figures show that in our clinic patient base (defined as patients who have been to the clinic at least 3 times in the last 2 years) over 84% of people over the age of 70 have had at least one jab and about 70% are fully vaccinated. This drops off a bit for the 60-69 yo although still over 78% of these have had one shot. 

When we analyse why people are getting vaccinated locally there seems to be 3 main reasons.

Personal protection, especially for older people although now increasingly for younger too as mentioned above (and we didn’t even start to talk about long-COVID), remains the most important reason.

Then the idea of getting vaccinated to help protect the community, to protect our more vulnerable neighbours and family members, this has been a reason from the start of the rollout and remains prominent.

But unsurprisingly (and you hear lots about this in the press), we are seeing a major increase in people lining up for more practical and pragmatic reasons. They know that they will need evidence of vaccination to turn up at events, to travel either interstate or overseas, or even enter certain businesses in the near future. And so they are getting vaccinated. Many of these are coming from a previous vaccine-hesitant cohort. 

There are always a lot of questions.

“What about variants? What will be the cover for them? What about boosters, which ones and how often? Will mixing vaccines be better? What about the kids under 12?”-these are just a few. And all valid questions which we do not know the answers for yet.

What we do know is that the fundamental message remains; COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe, voluntary and highly effective in preventing serious disease. The more people who get vaccinated, the greater the protection for those vaccinated and the whole community. And the best vaccine for you is the one which you are eligible for.

Finally, as has been mentioned before, the mental health issues that are arising and will continue to arise as a result of the pandemic, the lockdowns, the loss of social contact, the loss of employment- all these affect the most vulnerable in society to a greater extent than many who have robust jobs and families that can rally around. The observation is that a blanket of anxiety and melancholy has descended over much of society and there are so many who are affected. We think that the service we offer at FMC is top-notch-it can always be improved and added to, but it certainly should not be downgraded in any way. Many jobs in primary mental health in the district are now up for tender. We need your help to advocate and support us. Go to the GPHN website (https://www.gphn.org.au), or facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gippslandphn/) and onto the events calendar. Scroll to the GPHN Commissioning Event and enrol to attend one of the community forums. Or ring 51755444 (GPHN switchboard) and ask how to get onto a forum. (GPHN are even offering a $50 voucher for community members to attend!). Help us set the priorities for further mental health and drug/alcohol support in our community. Otherwise we are in danger of losing them!