Dear Bellingen Shire
23 February 2021
And so it begins! Billed as Australia’s biggest peacetime event since 1945. It is also the world’s biggest ever health related event, packed into a very tight timeline. Indeed, the Covid19 vaccine rollout is a world event.
Months ago I made the apparently political statement that we stand or fall on how we treat the most vulnerable – that extends beyond our shores and I hope that the Australian Government comes good with the early headline catching promises to help provide vaccines to our poorer and more vulnerable pacific neighbours.
In case you missed the news blitzkrieg, the first Covid19 vaccines are happening yesterday and today. This week they will be going to frontline Border, Quarantine, Emergency, Aged Care Home workers and Aged Care residents – In Sydney. It is not yet clear when the Pfizer Vaccine will be starting in the Coffs Harbour network and Northern NSW. We’ll hear about it in the next week, I expect. This process is controlled by the Federal Health Department, with some State Health Hospitals being involved.
Regarding the second vaccine wave – “Phase 1 B”, which will be the Astra Zeneca vaccine – We expect to be informed tomorrow (Tuesday) which Medical practices/towns/facilities will be nominated to mount that charging cavalry steed galloping to rescue us from our self imposed international isolation.
Well, actually reintegration into the travelling world is not going to happen for a long bit yet. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and no one really knows how the story ends, or what will be put into the cliffhanger to have us begging for a sequel.
Some reiteration of some facts and frequent questions:
You, my family, yours and I will not get to choose which vaccine is available to us. The logistics are tight and the above team will be offered/get the limited available doses Pfizer vaccine. It does not mean that it is much better, just a bit different and more quickly available.
Everyone else will get the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which is not necessarily less good, but just a bit different, and will be a lot more available.
We mentioned some months ago that ultimately we might need to get boosters as the virus mutates, and that has come to pass. We may even swap brands engineered for new strains, after the first 2 doses, but not this year. We don’t yet know how long natural or vaccine immunity lasts. Yes, there are reports of people in Africa, UK, and Brazil getting second infections.
There will be no space to queue jump or pay for first dibs.
I don’t get to say who goes first. However your GP will need to provide you with some certification of a chronic medical condition that puts you at high risk, to qualify for the phase “1B”. Everyone then will be booking into a relatively local vaccination hub. Our “digital natives” may be called to help aging, less adept dinosaurs – like me – to book online for the hubs once the process is announced.
If you have questions about the vaccine – PLEASE make an appt with your GP and discuss it now! Don’t save it up to the day you come for a vaccine. Whichever of us are allocated the task of vaccinating, we will be going hell for leather to get through as many people as possible, so that none is deprived. I am still very nervous that the community will let down its guard. We could have an outbreak of Covid19 while we are working through the vaccinations. We want to get through to the other side of second doses ASAP And -“winter is coming!”
Both the vaccines will need a second /booster dose – the Pfizer within 3-4 weeks and the Astra Zeneca with 3-12 weeks.
If you have a relative in Aged Care who is not able to make decisions for themselves then the Facility will be asking you for permission to vaccinate. PLEASE, whatever your politics, when you get that request – jump to it. Give an answer! They will be trying really hard, and their windows to get protection for their resident, i.e. your mum or dad, will be very narrow.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are not going to be offered a vaccine at this stage until the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have seen a lot more evidence.
People with suppressed immune systems – e.g. on prednisolone, anti-rheumatoid drugs, many forms of cancer, are not more vulnerable to the vaccine. They are more vulnerable to the disease, and so are included in the phase 1 B.
It is not a live vaccine, so cannot give you Covid19 (or 5G poisoning, or a microchip – because it comes in multi-dose vials, etc.).
Regarding the annual flu vaccine- Phew! The recommendation is to have it at least 14 days separate to the Covid19 – not clear on the reason, but that is the expert recommendation – it will be late arriving this year.
How to prepare your body/immune system/spirit for the vaccination? Well I really don’t know anything more specific. There was a study published recently from USA that said there was not a significant difference in length of illness in mild Covid19 from taking vitamin C or Zinc. But it was a really small study, and even so the numbers did trend towards the disease being at least a day shorter.
Recent study from The University of QLD demonstrated that exercise and mobility reduces dementia, heart disease, cancer and depression. Our minds have a big impact on how our immune system responds. I will continue to take vit C, zinc, vit D, walk daly and avoid eating crappy, imitation food-ike substances. I will also be mindfully willing/ visualising my immune cells to recognise the viral particle and make a determined memory of it. You know that great old Hippy stuff that Bellingen Shire is famous for? It costs nothing.
At this stage our local Covid19 testing clinic will continue. The Coffs Harbour clinic is moving to the Red and White Medical Centre on the highway, and the Port Macquarie clinic is also moving.
OK, so enough rapid fire stuff.
With any good music or tale, we need to give dramatic relief of tension. So time to segue – to Elvis. Why Elvis – a long dead white guy? Because everyone immediately knows who that is. If I said Jose Gonzales, the Swede, hardly anyone would recognise the name – even though he plays some beautiful music, also often written by others.
But Elvis is topical because Grace Tame, our new and absolutely brilliantly chosen Australian of the Year loves Elvis. She also loves her very supportive family and community who have helped lift her from an ugly place.
She likes the 1968 song “If I Can Dream”. And I think it poses some really ageless questions for each of us.
There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
How on earth is this relevant?
I am thinking post pandemic; post vaccine; post the end of “Jobkeeper”.
I have met many managers in industry, construction, health service and even cafes, who paradoxically can’t get staff! No one is applying for the jobs they are advertising. The Job keeper program was vital and helped a lot survive. But it is going to be finite. If I was asked by anyone about when to look for a job then absolutely now is the time and quickly – before that support ends. I fear that employers who have had job offers snubbed will be less interested in anyone who stays on Job keeper till the last, and then there will be 100 applications for each job.
Another cloudy crystal ball image that has me troubled is what happens to government finances and financed activity by the end of the year. I fear there will be a reckoning and there may be slaughter amongst public service programs. Government grants will dry up and money will be diverted to debt and recovery.
However, to take a positive view: A good news story through last year’s difficult times was the rediscovery by people of their community, and the joy of being less barrelled by hyperlife.
On the weekend we attended a farewell event at Gleniffer for the wonderful and generous, musical, Cliff and Pat Schofield, after 50 years of being of service in the Rural Fire Brigade, Presidents or Treasurers of the local church or hall committees, and untold hours of volunteering. When Cliff and Pat and their contemporaries reflected on what made their life worthwhile – it was not what deals they had done, nor their house extensions, or even holidays to somewhere exotic. The Joy that lifted and still carries them in all their memories centres around their times of service to the community, the weekend working bees, the actual raw fun of participating.
So as government services and support withdraw, are we going to cry “Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t our dreams come true?”, or can we reignite those community organisations and ourselves, and make our dreams. Remember your noble resolutions of last year – exercise, joining, slow down?
The local Show committees of Bellingen, Urunga and Dorrigo are desperate for volunteers who are not going to measure their worth in hourly rates. The Lions clubs find a reason to get out of bed each weekend, as do Rotary clubs. No doubt 2BBB needs more volunteer foot soldiers, and the kids sports clubs always seem to rely on so few individuals to do the physical grind, but then so few get the uplift of having been part of that great day. You don’t have to wait till retirement to get the best of living in a smaller community. It started for Cliff and Pat the year they moved here. For newcomers/tree changers, community service groups are the quickest doors to friendships. Our local hospital was built with pride, originally by local subscription and labour.
Communities can provide community services, (even if governments hit a razor gang mood by the end of the year) like our grandparents did. And, like Bellingen Shire did with its famous unique community support model at the start of the first lockdown.
But then I am just a simple country GP. Is there any evidence to support such apolitical high-minded idealism? Well, in the research, yes! After the age-old tropes of good food and exercise, community engagement is one of the most powerfully consistent influences on healthy longevity – all around the world!
I saw an article dealing with how to manage pandemic fatigue – ground breaking new techniques:
Switch off the news, or at least ration it;
Practice Daily moments of mindfulness and gratitude for our good fortune;
Take issues 1 step at a time;
But STEP OUT – daily vigorous exercise – even if you are in a wheel chair you can still lift bottles of water 10 times;
Switch off electronic devices well before bed – to aim for a good sleep.
This ground-breaking advice was published by someone’s wise grandma in the famous Mayo Clinic, in newsletters from the AMA, and the journal “Psychology Today”.
Please remember this is just one perspective, so check any of the above with your own GP, and soon – before the vaccine rollout arrives, and with your club president, or priest, or bush fire Captain, or service chairperson – etc. They may all be the same person, but …..
Dr Trevor Cheney