24 June 2021

Easier access to COVID-19 vaccine as more general practices get onboard

| Kim Treasure
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The Health Care Centre staff

Staff at The Health Care Centre in Crookwell have been ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines since April. Front: Dr Johanna Kovats. Back (from left): Sally Galland, Heidi Ehmann, Kristen Lawton, Sally Gamble and Megan Williams. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

People over 60 years of age now have more access to COVID-19 vaccines in the NSW South East with an extra 22 general practices accredited to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Tuross Head Medical Centre and Bombala Medical Centre will begin offering COVID vaccinations on 28 June, while two general practices in Crookwell and three general practices in the Shoalhaven are also now accredited

According to South Coast General Practitioner Dr Anoop Jalota, more than 50,000 doses a week are now available across the South Eastern NSW region.

“We are currently administering between 75 and 100 vaccines a week and have a waiting list of people wanting to get vaccinated,” Dr Jalota said.

“It is good news that more general practices are taking part in the vaccination rollout. General practices are better placed to tailor advice according to an individual’s situation. A patient’s GP knows them and their medical history.

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“As people aged 40 to 59 are now eligible to book an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine, our general practice has expressed interest in administering that vaccine as well. Pfizer will be available from some general practices in our region in July.

“People under the age of 60 years who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and who did not experience any serious side effects, should keep their appointment and receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Dr Jalota said the risk of blood clots linked to AstraZeneca was exceptionally low – currently the risk in Australia is less than two per 100,000 people.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has assured that AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for people who are over the age of 60 years.

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“If you are aged 60 or older, you can book an appointment with your GP to access the vaccine that is available now. I would warn against waiting for other vaccines, as those vaccines may be intended for the younger population or for those who have a specific contraindication to taking the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Dr Jalota said.

“COVID vaccinations are free and if you have any concerns about your individual circumstances, I recommend making time with your usual GP to discuss these.”

Dr Jalota said it was particularly important to practise good hygiene, social distancing and wear masks when appropriate to limit the spread of COVID as well as common colds and flu in winter.

“Seasonal influenza can lower a person’s immunity and make them susceptible to other illnesses. I would recommend getting the flu vaccine as well as the COVID vaccine as you can receive the two vaccines seven days apart,” Dr Jalota said.

To find the closest vaccination site you can use the vaccine eligibility tracker on the Department of Health’s website. Eligible groups include people aged 40 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 years and over, NDIS participants and their carers aged 16 years and over as well as some temporary visa holders.

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