TOODYAY is expected to start getting its first free Covid-19 shots at the end of this month.
First in line at the Alma Beard Medical Centre will be local residents aged 70 or older, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 or older.
Wheatbelt Health Network CEO Dr Harry Randhawa said he expected significant demand for the new life-saving vaccine.
Local medical staff were gearing up to vaccinate up to 50 people a day in addition to normal flu shots and other regular local vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases.
Toodyay residents will receive the Oxford/AstraZenica vaccine which gained Australian Government approval on February 16 after completing successful clinical trials in record time last November at Britain’s Oxford University.
Dr Randhawa said Toodyay residents younger than 70 would gain access to the new vaccine when more supplies became available from the Eastern States.
Not pregnant women or kids
However, pregnant women and children under 16 remain ineligible for the vaccine because it has not been tested in those groups.
“We will have to wait until further trials show that the vaccine is safe for them,” Dr Randhawa said.
Studies have found that children appear to be less affected by the Covid-19 virus than adults and, if infected, generally suffer only mild symptoms.
However, children can still infect adults.
Dr Randhawa said he hoped all Toodyay residents could be vaccinated by August.
Two local nurses (pictured right) have been trained and officially certified to deliver the AstraZenica vaccine in Toodyay.
“We expect to be able to vaccinate 20 to 50 people a day at the Alma Beard Medical Centre, depending on supplies and demand,” Dr Randhawa said.
“This is in addition to normal demand for annual flu shots, which will commence locally as winter approaches.
“We expect in coming months to go through double the number of syringes we normally use.
“To be effective, every AstraZenica vaccination needs to be followed up by a second shot 12 weeks later.
“This is similar to measles, mumps and rubella, which require three shots, each two months apart.
Flu shots need to be separate
“However, flu shots can’t be given at the same time as AstraZenica – they need to be spaced at least two weeks apart.
“We will open the Toodyay medical centre on weekends if we receive sufficient supplies to meet demand.”
Dr Randhawa said the AstraZenica vaccine could be kept safely between 2C and 8C in normal refrigerators at the Toodyay clinic, which is equipped to store up to 500 doses.
This made it more practical for local use than the Australian-approved Pfizer vaccine which needed to be transported and stored at -70C.
In addition, the AstraZenica vaccine was supplied in single-dose vials.
This would prevent last month’s Queensland situation when untrained doctors gave two elderly patients four times the recommended dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which comes in six-dose vials.
“Toodyay people don’t need to file a special application to get their free AstraZenica vaccination,” Dr Randhawa said.
“All they need to do is call the Wheatbelt Health Network on 9574 2300 to book their shot at the Alma Beard Medical Centre.
“Toodyay people can also book to be vaccinated in Northam.
Vulnerable people first
“Priority will be given to people classed by the Australian Government as vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and serious illness.
“These include people aged 70 or older, and those with chronic diseases such as heart-lung disease, diabetes and other pre-existing medical conditions, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Priority will also go to quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare staff, emergency services and people supplying and distributing essential goods and services.
“People who are infected but don’t get ill are still classed as carriers and will need to be vaccinated too.”
Dr Randhawa said every AstraZenica shot would contain “an inactive part of the Covid-19 virus”.
It would be injected into the muscle, similar to a tetanus shot.
“There will be a little bit of a sting and a sore arm for up to 48 hours,” Dr Randhawa said.
“People can ask to get it in their non-favoured arm.
“You might get a very mild fever and symptoms of a flu-like illness similar to ordinary flu.
“Any fever, muscle aches and pains, and lethargy should wear off in 48 hours.
“These symptoms can be treated with paracetamol (such as Panadol) or ibuprofen (eg: Nurofen) just as you might for ordinary flu.”
Dr Randhawa said everyone vaccinated against Covid-19 would have their details recorded in the Federal Government’s Australian Immunisation Register.
This would enable health authorities to ensure enough supplies of the second dose.