Doctor calls for greater COVID-19 vaccine awareness

Dr Amy Kelly has called on eligible Hilltops residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr Amy Kelly has called on eligible Hilltops residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A local doctor is urging Hilltops residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with a large supply of the Astrazeneca vaccine available at the Young Vaccination Hub at Young'sBoorowa Street Medical Practice.

Dr Amy Kelly, a Boorowa-based rheumatologist, said 2000 doses of the vaccine are "sitting in the fridge", with anyone over the age of 50 now eligible to get the jab under Phase 2a of the rollout.

She believes residents aren't aware that so many vaccines are available, with the Vaccination Hub forced to drop from five days to three days a week due to a lack of bookings.

"They simply do not know that the vaccine is available now in Young," Dr Kelly said.

"Anyone over 50 now is eligible to get it done... You don't have to have additional risk factors, I would strongly recommend that everyone over 50 has it done."

She said many of her patients are keen to get the jab, noting the risk of severe illness or death by contracting COVID-19 is much greater than experiencing side effects from the vaccination.

According to Dr Kelly, there is a one in 100,000 chance of someone in their 50s getting a blood clot as a result of a side effect of the Astrazeneca vaccine.

For a person in their 70s, the risk is one in one million.

"I run a weekly rheumatology clinic in Boorowa and I have patients who are significantly immunosuppressed and they show very little signs of vaccine hesitancy," Dr Kelly said.

"I actually think most of them are well-educated about the risks of the Astrazeneca vaccine.

"They understand that, they accept that it is a very, very low risk, they're prepared to take that risk for the benefit of their community and their family members.

"The simple fact is, we don't know how to predict who's at risk of these very, very rare side effects but what we do know is that COVID is very bad and it causes blood clots too."

Dr Kelly said it was important those eligible get vaccinated as soon as possible, with an increased risk of community transmission of the virus due to the time required between doses and the onset of the cooler weather.

"The recommendation for the best antibody response from the vaccine is that you have the two doses 12 weeks apart, so you are not fully protected until you've had that second dose," she said.

"If you had the vaccine tomorrow, [that] would take us up to the beginning of August so it's imperative that patients go and get it done now.

"That's the middle of winter and that's right in the middle of our flu season and we know that COVID-19 is more transmissible in the cooler weather."

In addition to protecting elderly and vulnerable populations, Dr Kelly said an increase in vaccination rates will assist children in the community.

"Our children can't get vaccinated as it stands at the moment... the MRNA vaccines are only recommended for people over the age of 16," she said.

"Now yes, children are less likely to suffer from the severe side effects of COVID-19 but we know from the United States experience that children are still 100 times more at risk of death from COVID-19 than the influenza virus."

Dr Kelly said doctors in the Hilltops region are "frustrated" by the lack of information provided by the government in regards to vaccine availability.

"We can't wait for the government to send out ads and we can't wait for our GPs to call us up and say 'let's get the vaccine'," she said.

"GPs are so busy, they don't have enough people to answer the phones on a regular day, let alone to call thousands of patients, telling them they can come and get the vaccine."

Dr Kelly said it is simply a matter of calling the Boorowa Street Medical Practice to make a booking.

"You don't need a referral from your GP, or your specialist, they will send you a questionnaire, so it's a history check about any potential concerns or risk factors you might have if you have the vaccine," she said.

She said Hilltops has an opportunity to "go it alone".

"Let's protect us as a community," she said.