Covid-19 Vaccines – The next phase

The next phase of Australia’s Covid-19 Vaccine program began today.

Children aged 5-11 years old are now able to get immunised against Covid-19 using Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine. Pfizer have developed a lower strength dose for this age group.

At the GP Practice I work at in North Queensland parents and children are very enthusiastic about the expansion of immunisation to younger children. All the appointments allocated to children’s covid vaccines are fully booked for the next two weeks.

Children can also go to the walk-in vaccine centre run by Queensland Health or to local participating pharmacies.

Many families are keen to have their children immunised before the start of the academic year which in Australia is usually at the end of January but in Queensland has been delayed due to the high numbers of covid-19 cases.

According to the clinical trial done by Pfizer their vaccine for 5-11 years old children is 90.7% effective at preventing symptomatic disease and side effects are less common compared to older children.

If you live in Australia you can find your nearest vaccine location use the following link:

The less famous virus(es)

There is only one virus dominating the news this year, rightly so as it devastates the world.

However there are multiple other viruses that we do have the means to take control of. The group of viruses that cause liver inflammation (hepatitis) are particularly harmful.

Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) marked World Hepatitis Day on the 28th July.

The WHO have less than ten days in the calendar they use for raising awareness so they consider Hepatitis an important global condition. This year’s theme is a “Hepatitis Free Future”. The WHO report that there are 290 million people living with viral hepatitis and don’t know it.

There is a dual approach to achieving the goal of elimination by 2030. Increasing immunisation rates will prevent people from ever getting infected and testing and treatment will reduce the number of infected individuals who can spread it to others.

There are five Hepatitis viruses named A, B, C, D and E. B and C are the most common and cause the most deaths. There are effective immunisations against Hepatitis B and in the last few years highly effective treatments for Hepatitis C have been developed. Both Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted via sexual partners and blood contaminated objects such as needles or razors. However Hepatitis B is more commonly transmitted from mother to baby which makes child immunisation an important method of prevention.

In Australia an immunisation for Hepatitis B is part of the childhood schedule and the first dose is given within 24 hours of birth (as recommended by WHO) to reduce the risk of mother to baby transmission. This is the case for many other countries as well but only 42% of children globally have access to a birth dose.

Putting into context how harmful Hepatitis B and C are they cause over a million deaths each year, while COVID-19 at the start of August 2020 was just under 700,000 deaths.

Next time you see your doctor ask whether you would benefit from Hepatitis tests and immunisations for yourself and your family.

Dr Amit Patel

Salmonella Outbreak

On the 21st March 2019 news of a salmonella outbreak in the South East of Australia was made public. Eggs originating from a farm in Victoria are thought to be the source of multiple cases of illness caused by salmonella. The farm has been quarantined and eggs originating from there have been recalled.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria which has a large number of strains (sub-types). The strain causing most of the cases of current illness is Salmonella Enteriditis. If you have the illness the symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis but can be worse. The symptoms are likely to include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

The NSW Health website has a list of affected egg products and this can be found at this link:

If you have any eggs at home they should be checked for the brand, date and stamp. If you have eggs that match any of those in the list (see link above) they should be disposed of or returned to the place of purchase for a refund.

According to the Food Safety Information Council there are 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. Some of these cases could have been avoided through simple measures such as thorough cooking, good hand washing and keeping raw meat and fish separate from other food in the fridge. In the case of eggs, which are the source of the current outbreak, poached eggs, mayonnaise and aioli contain egg which isn’t fully cooked and are therefore higher risk items for causing illness.

If you are concerned you might have food poisoning caused by salmonella or any other cause you should seek medical attention from your family doctor.