Mirror Article Wed 22nd September 2021

by Dr Ruyu Yao

It is Sunday afternoon. On the television the Premier has just announced an ‘out of lockdown roadmap’. Audacious or over-cautious depending on one’s viewpoint, it offers hope of returning to some normality, and a chance for businesses to regain vitality. We look forward to the day that we can make plans again.  

Every now and then though, there are local COVID scares from whispers, rumors, tingles in the air, bubbles in the water. So far nothing significant has eventuated, but we know one (or several) of us will fall victim, sooner or later. They remind us how fragile and vulnerable our situation is, and what shifting ground we’re standing on. Ongoing diligence and continuous hard work is crucial, more so now than ever before, to protect ourselves, and nurture this hope of post-COVID normality into a reality.

Reaching a vaccination target of 70 or 80 percent does not mean we’re safe. However, when the unvaccinated population is reduced to under 20 percent, the risk of our healthcare system being overwhelmed by COVID presentations may be reduced to a more tolerable level. 

Based on current growth rate of cases, the Burnet institute expects a peak of between 1,400 and 2,900 daily cases in Victoria between October 19 and 31. It also forecasts a second peak of about 4.500 in mid-December once restrictions have been eased. These are still significant numbers, projecting a demand of 260- 550 ICU beds. 

‘Herd immunity’ (vaccinating most of the community to provide protection to the unvaccinated) is unlikely to be achieved, both due to the ever-evolving COVID variants and to the nature of the current available vaccines, which are very effective in protecting people from getting sick, but less so in preventing transmission. 

The roadmap forces an acceptance of an increase in case numbers-many of them will be people who are vaccinated and will have milder symptoms. But following the easing of restrictions there will definitely be greater transmission of the virus. As a result, a higher proportion of people who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated will fall ill with COVID. 

Basic hand hygiene, facial mask, social distancing should remain routine. It also becomes more important to have a swab promptly when any symptom is suspected, and repeat the test if symptoms persist.

The world is itching to open up once again, and we don’t want to turn back. So we’d better prepare for it. 

Since the introduction of the first COVID vaccine human trial back in April 2020, 5.92 billion doses have been administered worldwide.

Over 200,000 pregnant women have received mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) without safety concerns. As of 12 August, research from across six studies in four countries, involving more than 40,000 pregnant women, shows having COVID vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, or congenital abnormalities. The side effects are similar to non-pregnant population. 

There is neither a biologically plausible mechanism, nor real-world data suggesting that the COVID vaccine causes any impact on fertility.  

The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are contained in the muscles cells where they have been injected to, and are broken down within a few days. They don’t get across to the placenta or breastmilk. Better yet, there is some evidence of protective antibodies in cord blood and breastmilk, which may offer protection to infants. 

As of July 16, 2021, approximately 8.9 million adolescents aged 12–17 years in the United States had received the Pfizer vaccine. Mild reactions are reported in 60% of this population. One in five adolescents developed a fever after the second dose.  Myocarditis remains rare, with 10 cases per million after dose one and 67 cases per million after dose 2. The symptoms develop within a week of vaccination. The vast majority of these cases have been mild and patients have recovered quickly with supportive care.

Currently in Foster Medical Centre, we are vaccinating everyone over the age of 12 years. We have the advantage of obtaining a steady supply of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. The current wait time is less than a week. Please call to book with the medical centre.

If you have any questions or concerns, our nurses and doctor are here to help.  

So far we have vaccinated over 8,700 people in Foster Medical Centre. Although proud of this number, we realise that there is a long way to go. We will keep working to keep us all safe, moving together towards a ‘post COVID normal’ life.