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Health News

Should Australia vaccinate children against COVID-19?

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Should Australia vaccinate children against COVID-19?

Should Australia vaccinate children against COVID-19?

Experts suggest vaccination of children must be part of Australia’s exit strategy, especially with the Delta variant.

As a result of the current Greater Sydney COVID-19 outbreak with the Delta variant, we have seen numerous school children exposed, with hundreds of students from affected schools having to test and self-isolate.

Recent reports from countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Israel and the UK also suggest a spike in the number of school children exposed to the more transmissible, Delta variant.

Currently, the US is vaccinating children over the age of 12, with Singapore prioritising the vaccination of 12 to 18-year-olds ahead of adults aged 19 to 39 years. The UK recently approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15.

Is it time Australia considered vaccinating children? Professor Raina MacIntyre, Head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, thinks so.

“Yes, if vaccination is to be our exit strategy from the pandemic, it is essential that children are vaccinated, especially as more transmissible variants like Delta are becoming dominant globally,” said Professor MacIntyre.

“Initially, we should start as soon as possible with children 12 years and over. Kids in this age range transmit as much as adults. Eventually, we will also need to look at younger kids as other countries are doing, looking at six years of age and over.”

More children with Delta variant
Why are we seeing more children and young people being infected with the Delta variant as opposed to previous strains of SARS-CoV-2? Professor MacIntyre explained while there is still not enough firm evidence, data coming out of the UK suggests Delta has more predilection for children.

“There have been many school outbreaks, including in Sydney. Partly, it could be that adults are more highly vaccinated, which then pushes infection into younger unvaccinated groups. But it also could be a genuine increase in the risk of symptomatic infection in kids. We have also seen child-to-child transmission in the current Sydney outbreak. This makes schools a high-risk site.”

In a recent article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), Professor MacIntyre made reference to two peer-reviewed studies around long COVID in children. One study estimated more than seven per cent of children aged 2 to 11 years who contract SARS-CoV-2 will develop long COVID. The other study found over half of children between 6 and 16 years of age with COVID-19 had at least one symptom lasting more than four months, with 42.6 per cent suffering impairment of daily activities.

Professor MacIntyre said when considering the life expectancy of children, arguably they have the most to lose from persistence of the pandemic so they should be included in any vaccination program.

“We have known since last year that kids aged ten and over transmit as effectively as adults. The data are more mixed in kids under the age of ten, but Delta seems to be able to cause outbreaks in younger kids.”

In the MJA article, Professor MacIntyre; Dr Andrew Miller, President of the Australian Medical Association’s WA branch; and Dr Julie McEniery from the QLD Paediatric Quality Council. suggested the stakes have been raised with more transmissible variants such as the Delta strain, and vaccination of children must be part of Australia’s exit strategy.

“For economic recovery, our best bet is herd immunity, and we will never know if we can achieve it unless we try.”

Health News

Testing numbers up across Northern NSW Local Health District

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Testing numbers up across Northern NSW Local Health District
Testing numbers up across Northern NSW Local Health District

Testing numbers up across Northern NSW Local Health District

Northern NSW Local Health District would like to thank the community for their recent response to calls for testing in the Byron Bay and Ballina areas recently.
“Following advice over the weekend that a positive COVID-19 case had travelled on a flight from Sydney to Ballina, and recent detection of virus fragments in sewage in Byron Bay, we’ve seen a jump in people getting tested at local clinics,” Lynne Weir, Acting Chief Executive, Northern NSW Local Health District said.
“It’s promising to see our community responding to these calls, as it’s so important in the fight to find any cases which may be in our area.
“So far, there have not been any new confirmed cases identified within our District.”
Testing figures show there were 6,857 tests conducted among residents of Northern NSW Local Health District for the week of 18 – 24 July, almost a 50 per cent jump on the previous week when 4,575 tests were conducted.
The 45 passengers and additional crew members on flight VA1139 on 14 July, who were all identified as close contacts of the positive case, were contacted by NSW Health and advised to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of the initial test result.
Daily sewage samples taken from the Byron Bay treatment plant since the detection of viral fragments on 20 July have all returned negative results, as have the other testing sites across the District.
“I encourage anyone who is feeling unwell to come forward for a COVID-19 test as soon as they develop symptoms,’ Ms Weir said.
“Testing and tracing are some of the best tools we have to manage the virus, and if there are cases which we don’t know about, that makes it difficult for our health teams to respond.
“Please don’t wait to get a test, you can find testing clinics open any day of the week.”
Clinic locations and opening hours are listed on the NSW website at COVID-19 testing clinics. There are more than 400 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW.

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Health News

Two new services providing free confidential support for anxiety, stress and low mood

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Healthy North Coast
Healthy North Coast

Two new services providing free confidential support for anxiety, stress and low mood

HEALTHY North Coast, in partnership with Remedy Healthcare, is pleased to announce a new mental health service for the North Coast.

Healthy North Coast CEO Julie Sturgess said that access to free support services for people living with mild mental illness on the North Coast was a priority.

“For people needing support with managing stress or worry, it’s so important that we have services available to provide help when and where needed, so that support can be accessed early,” she said.

“After a competitive tender process, Remedy Healthcare has been contracted to deliver two new programs to support people over 16 to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing, especially people experiencing isolation, and those in rural and remote locations.

“The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in mental health concerns across the world. Now, more than ever, we have to encourage ourselves to seek help.”

Remedy Healthcare is launching the MindStepR and Healing Minds telephone and online services. Both are free, easily accessible, and do not require a referral by a GP or healthcare professional. Delivered by trained mental health coaches, the confidential services use evidence-based techniques that improve mental health and wellbeing.

Remedy Healthcare’s Executive General Manager, Mike Hutton Squire, said both services aimed to reduce psychological distress and improve quality of life by helping people self-manage their mental health and wellbeing.

“The free services offer one-on-one assessment, coaching and follow-up sessions. Use of the services is completely confidential and accessible to people living anywhere within the North Coast region in NSW.”

Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the new services would provide much needed and timely support for the people of northern NSW.

“Around one in five people have a mental health concern each year,” Mr Hogan said.

“Over a lifetime, around 50% of people are likely to experience mental health issues.”

This year’s Federal Budget directed $2.3 billion towards improving mental health and suicide prevention in communities across Australia.

MindStepR is an evidence-based, low-intensity, guided self-help service and is designed to run alongside any existing psychological care.

To access MindStepR, call 1800 322 278 or visit www.remedyhealthcare.com.au/mindstep-hnc

Healing Minds is a culturally sensitive adaptation of MindStep specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 16. To access Healing Minds, call 1800 810 255 or visit www.remedyhealthcare.com.au/healing-minds-hnc

If you or someone you care for needs immediate support, please call 000 or:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
1800 Respect 1800 737 732
MensLine 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

MASKING THE GREAT COMMUNITY DIVIDE ON COVID

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MASKING THE GREAT COMMUNITY DIVIDE ON COVID
The unidentified ‘No Mask’ poster appearing in some businesses in the Northern Rivers

MASKING THE GREAT COMMUNITY DIVIDE ON COVID

By Margaret Dekker

Community stalwarts say tensions are growing across the Northern Rivers as some businesses opt out of enforcing public health orders on masks and QR code sign-ins in their shops and cafes, instead displaying alternative signs.

Across Byron and Tweed shires, the poster “No Mask, We Don’t Ask” has gone up (pictured) in shop windows and on shop walls, advising,

“To our valued customers. The NSW government has mandated mask use indoors but please be aware if you’re not wearing one we will assume you’re exempt, no questions asked.  We don’t do judgements, shaming or discrimination here, so please know you will be warmly welcomed and respected however you show up,” it reads.

The poster doesn’t make clear who has written, authorised or distributed it.

Long-time local campaigner and Flattening the Curve spokesperson, Nicqui Yazdi, told The Northern Rivers Times she knows firsthand of the hostility the posters have caused.  She says in Bangalow, an unidentified woman tried to put one up in the window of café Butcher and Baker without permission.  The woman, who wasn’t wearing a mask, was told to leave but the attempt left staff fuming.

In Byron Bay, clothing store Nikau was among the first to place the sign in its Fletcher Street window (pictured) they’re in windows in Mullumbimby including Eden’s Landing Health Foods and Lulu’s café and on the Tweed Coast, Nectar juice bar at Cabarita Beach displays the poster.

On its social media page, Nectar posted,

“Whilst we are taking the current Covid situation very seriously and our staff are wearing masks for yours and our safety – we do not know your situation.  If you choose not to wear one, that is your prerogative.  Everyone is welcome in our café,” Nectar’s facebook page read to mixed responses from followers.

Nicqui Yadzi, who lives in Mullumbimby, says on the streets, public displays of personal opinions about COVID -19 are going too far.  She says a local woman, a distinguished artist, was verbally abused by a busker because of wearing her mask.  The ordeal left the woman shaken and reluctant to go out again.

“That s-it should not happen” Nicqui said.

“Everyone who lives in Mullumbimby is a part of the community who recognised each other’s differences and carried the same soul but since COVID, that’s just been ripped apart,” she said.

Nicqui knows of family relationships, old friends and friendship groups that are strained because of conflicting views about the pandemic, and public health orders.

But it’s Mullumbimby’s national reputation that’s getting hardest hit and stigmatised she says, despite many people in the ‘Biggest Little Town in Australia’ in fact elderly and conservative,

“People in Queensland are reading articles about Mullumbimby and it’s now being seen in a bad light and yet anti-vaxxers are a minority but a vocal, loud minority.  Mullum still is old school and old conservative Mullumbimby is finding it really hard,” Nicqui Yazdi said.

 

 

 

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