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Heywood COVID call. How many locals want the coronavirus vaccine?

HEYWOOD Rural Health is calling on the community to let it know if they want the coronavirus vaccination in the town after being limited in its ability to offer the jabs as dozens of locals sit on a waiting list.

HRH is looking to organise a public vaccination clinic (or clinics) for anyone aged over 50 who would prefer to have the vaccine in Heywood, rather than travelling further afield.

Chief executive Leigh Parker said the health service had been “constrained” in being able to offer public vaccinations of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged over 50 at the community health hub as it was now down to one GP, and there were already about 50 locals on the waiting list.

“That’s why we’re looking to organise a public vaccination clinic,” he said.

“Essentially we want to assess the level of demand.

“Why we want to do that is because the big problem is the challenge of supply, so we need to put a bit of pre-planning in to make sure we have the best use of resources.”

“We’re looking to service that wait list plus anybody else in the community that’s interested.”

The clinic would be run in conjunction with Portland District Health.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with Claire Holt and her team there to service those in the community that have a desire to have the AstraZeneca as close to home (as possible).”

Depending on demand there could be more than one clinic, limited to AstraZeneca.

“Unfortunately under the current arrangements we are unable to offer the Pfizer vaccine,” Mr Parker said.

“That has to be done at Portland or Warrnambool.”

That also affected HRH staff – more than 20 were waiting to get the Pfizer vaccine.

All the residents in the aged care facility who wanted the vaccine had received it and were fully vaccinated by mid-April, as well as all staff aged over 50.

“There’s just the group under 50 and we’re working with them and Portland and South West Health to gain access to their Pfizer clinics.”

Mr Parker said HRH was also looking for a second GP to bolster its medical workforce.

“We’ve been in continued discussions with Active Health (which provided the GP Samsun Nahar who has left the region for Mildura) to assist in the recruitment,” he said.

Anyone interested in getting vaccinated at Heywood and who is aged over 50 (there is no residency requirement so, for example, Portlanders who might work there are also eligible) can register their interest by calling 5527 0516 or emailing covid@heywoodruralhealth.vic.gov.au.

● Meanwhile, Portland and other shire residents are being urged to check their eligibility before seeking vaccinations.

The Pfizer vaccine is not available for people over 50 unless they fit into a priority category or have certain rare medical conditions.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is available to people over 50, however some were “demanding” Pfizer when they are not eligible, said Portland District Health vaccination spokeswoman Claire Holt.

PDH and local clinics had to follow government rules.

“Just because you’re over 50 and want to have Pfizer doesn’t mean you are eligible to get it,” Mrs Holt said.

She urged people to complete the eligibility checker and nomination form on the ‘COVID-19 safe’ Department of Health website.

Most people being vaccinated did not get a choice and PDH was not allowed to give Pfizer to anyone over 50 who did not fit the eligibility criteria.

However, people under 50 could have either Pfizer or Astra Zeneca with informed consent, and Victoria had limited supplies of the former.

Mrs Holt said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweighed the risks.

“Blood clotting paired with low platelets is a rare condition and is unrelated to the more common clotting conditions of which many people have a history,” she said.

“For people over 50, it is a four-in-a-million risk; the risks from clotting with COVID-19 are far greater.”

There had been no local cases of people developing the rare blood clotting condition after having the jab.

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