Get tested, get your third dose and consider using masks in tight places.

 

COVID cases are rising in our community, according to Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child, as the more contagious BA.2 subvariant spreads quickly throughout Victoria.

And it’s never been more important to be vaccinated, she says.

“Bass Coast residents are at significant risk of contracting the new contagious subvariant of COVID, with up-to-date vaccination rates much lower than when two doses were mandatory,” Ms Child said at the weekend.

Across Victoria, 63.9% of people are triple dosed, but numbers vary wildly locally from 80% to 70% to as low as 50% in some Bass Coast areas. And according to the latest data from the Health Department, there are 343 active cases in Bass Coast including 43 and 353 in South Gippsland, 55 new.

And anecdotally at least, the number of active cases is a lot higher than that.

“Three doses of a COVID vaccine are now considered to give the best protection against the virus, and a fourth dose is now highly recommended for aged care residents, people living in disability accommodation, and other vulnerable groups also considered to be most at risk of serious illness.” Ms Child said.

These groups include:

* adults aged 65 years and older

* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50, and

* people aged 16 years and older who are severely immunocompromised.

“ATAGI recommends the above vulnerable groups receive their COVID-19 Winter dose 4 months after their initial booster dose.

“Unfortunately, we know there are still some people who have chosen to have no vaccination. These people are taking a very high risk.

“We also know there are still too many people in the Bass Coast Shire who are yet to receive a third dose or booster. According to the Department of Health, only 70 per cent of the eligible population in Wonthaggi and Cowes has received a third dose, 80 per cent of Inverloch and San Remo, and around 50 per cent in Bass and Coronet Bay.

“There is also low uptake of a vaccination among 5-11-year-olds in the Bass Coast Shire,” said Ms Child.

According to the Department of Health, up to 45 per cent of Wonthaggi children aged 5-11 had received a first dose and up to 15 per cent a second dose. In Inverloch, up to 60 per cent had had a first dose and up to 20 per cent a second. In the San Remo postcode, up to 70 per cent had received a first dose and up to 25 per cent a second.

In Cowes, up to 55 per cent had got their first dose and up to 25 per cent a second. In Bass and Coronet Bay, up to 60 per cent had received a first dose and up to 15 per cent a second.

Ms Child says these rates are too low, and the complacency is worrying.

“Our community held off COVID spread pretty well in the past few waves because we had high vaccination rates. With low booster rates, we are once again very vulnerable and we are seeing this in the increase in the number of cases locally.

“Vaccination is the best protection we can give ourselves against COVID-19.

“We are already starting to see the rising numbers of the Omicron subvariant BA.2 in our Emergency Department and in our inpatient beds, and we have many more people isolating at home with COVID who need support.

‘Short staff for next wave’

“We are now preparing for a further surge in cases and hospitalisations likely to hit us mid to late April, and whilst we are very ready to treat COVID patients, and our usual patients, and keep them all separated and safe, we need the community to help.

“Like every industry, we continue to be short staffed, and what we need to do is prevent people from getting sick whenever we can.

“Every wave is different, and what we know about this BA.2 variant is that this variant is said to be 50-70% more infectious, and the peak is going to land right in the middle of school holidays and Easter where our community is busier and co-mingling more.

“We understand how important it is for the broader community to get back to ’Covid normal’, but for health services, this next few weeks will again see us stretched, and so we have already begun to introduce safeguards to keep ourselves and our patients safe.

“Good ventilation, meeting outdoors, avoiding crowds, restricting visitors and movement, maintaining distance, and most importantly, wearing a N95 mask, are just some of the things we can all do to prevent the spread.

“Importantly, we ask people to please not ignore symptoms, and get tested.  Testing and isolation remain key to stopping transmission to vulnerable people.

“In addition to reducing transmission, COVID-19 vaccines are also highly effective at preventing severe disease and death.”

According to the Department of Health, a COVID-19 case is far more likely to be admitted to hospital or ICU if they are unvaccinated, and far less likely to be admitted if they have received three doses. The majority of people who have died with COVID-19 have been partially or unvaccinated, with 53% of deaths occurring in unvaccinated people compared to 1.7% who had received three doses of vaccine.

“Our vaccination rates in our community are not as good as they should be and many people are coming to the six month point when their vaccine efficacy will wane. This will mean they are not protected.  It’s more important than ever for everyone to get their third dose and for vulnerable people, to get their fourth—to protect themselves, their community, and their loved ones.  And it is not too late for unvaccinated to get their 1st and 2nd dose—in fact, it may actually save their life!

Bass Coast Health is making it easier for our community to get a COVID vaccination. We recently held outreach vaccination clinics at Cowes, Newhaven College and San Remo, in addition to our regular clinic at the Wonthaggi Town Hall. These clinics were successful, with a total of more than 100 people vaccinated at two clinics at Cowes, 12 at Dalyston, 31 at Newhaven College and 48 at San Remo.  On Tuesday 29 March, our immunisation nurses will be at the Grantville Hall from 10am-4pm, giving Pfizer vaccinations for first, second or third doses, as well as 5-11 year-olds.