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OP-ED: Your GP Should be your First Vaccination Port of Call

Thursday 8 July 2021, The Examiner

It is now just over 18 months since we first heard of COVID-19 and worldwide we are really no closer to getting back to normal.

In Australia, and particularly Tasmania, we are somewhat more fortunate than most countries as in the main we have settled on a new normal, difficult as it may be for many.

However, just when we think things are improving, COVID rears its ugly head with the highly infectious Delta strain which has caused bedlam in many states with cases popping up, and hundreds of thousands of people in lockdown across Australia.

Once again chaos has been caused in our tourism industry and travel plans for many at school holiday time have been impacted.

This obviously also affects airlines and it was only recently that a family member returning from the Gold Coast had their flight cancelled and reorganised almost daily, from initially returning on a Wednesday evening to eventually Sunday.

When they finally returned the plane had minimal passengers with people having to be relocated on the plane for weight distribution.

Obviously rescheduled and cancelled flights have a huge impact both financially and personally, and our island state often seems to bear the brunt.

The incidence of infection in the mine in the Northern Territory shows just how far and fast COVID can spread.

COVID coming into a mine with one person can quickly spread and the problem is exacerbated when every week or fortnight a large number of miners change shift and fly back to family and friends.

In my mind, it certainly makes sense for areas where people are living in close quarters, such as a mining site, to be fully vaccinated.

Reports of adverse reactions to the AstraZeneca vaccine, as small as they may be, appear to have considerably slowed down vaccinations, but it will only be with a vaccinated population that life can return to as close to normal as possible.

There has been a great deal of ambiguity and conflicting information about the vaccine rollout and its safety.

For many, receiving the vaccine and having the opportunity to live life normally, with an enhanced sense of safety is reason enough to get the jab, no questions asked.

In a survey conducted by Health Consumers Tasmania in February of this year, 81 per cent of respondents believed the vaccine to be safe, but 14 per cent indicated that they did not know.

Since then, we have had a myriad of issues with the vaccine rollout and contradictory information about its safety for certain age groups.

I can only imagine that the level of confusion in the community has therefore gotten worse.

For people trying to decide on getting the vaccine, they need to understand and weigh up the risks and benefits to them, not necessarily to the general population.

I admit I was somewhat reluctant initially to have a vaccination given the unknowns plus my fear of needles, but when my doctor offered a vaccination that would otherwise have to be thrown out, I decided it would be foolish not to have it.

I was told that unfortunately many doses are discarded if people don't turn up for their shot, as each vial contains a certain amount of injections, and once drawn have to be used within a set number of hours.

Given my age, which is well over 50, I had the AstraZeneca jab.

With my first dose, while I didn't have a reaction that day, the next day I felt somewhat nauseous with a slight headache.

The following days and thereafter I was fine.

I wasn't sure what to expect with my second dose, but to my delight, there were no side effects at all, apart from a slight soreness at the injection site.

The nurse giving it was wonderful and I didn't even feel the needle going in - although I still don't like needles.

People need to be empowered to make the right, informed decisions about the management of their health.

For people with pre-existing conditions or vulnerabilities, there are valid questions that might need answering about COVID vaccines and these vary from person to person.

The first port of call for any and every discussion about your individual health starts with your GP, who can answer questions and address any concerns you might have.

Being out in the community and in contact often with vulnerable people, I now have more confidence in my own state of health and, while I don't feel quite invincible, I certainly feel much safer to go out and about, and hopefully travel in the not-too-distant future, albeit within Australia.

Who in their wildest dreams would have imagined how this pandemic would change our lives and our world?

Rosemary Armitage, independent Launceston MLC


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