Kids vax underway

January 13, 2022 BY

Protected: Seven-year-old Tobias Steegs received his first COVID-19 vaccination on Monday. Photo: JONATHON MAGRATH

CHILD vaccinations for COVID-19 have begun and thousands of Bendigo children are booked in to receive their first dose this month.

Kids aged five to 11 years old became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday and chair of Bendigo Health, Bob Cameron, estimated 3500 out of the 6000 children in the age group in Greater Bendigo are booked until the end of January.

“There has been hot demand and people have to get in the queue and take their time,” he said. “There’s pressure in the system because there’s all those people who can get boosters that are also coming as well.

“Bendigo Health will have to do the heavy lifting, we know that from last year, and we continue to do that heavy lifting because what we know about this pandemic is vaccination is a fantastic thing.”

The vaccine for children is a third of the adult dosage, and the interval between first and second doses is currently eight weeks.

Seven-year-old Tobias Steegs was among the first in his age group to get vaccinated in Bendigo.

“It kind of hurts at the start and then it starts to not hurt at the end,” he said. “You should get vaccinated so your family can get more safe.”

Mr Cameron said vaccination is “part of the culture” in Bendigo, with a 96 per cent childhood vaccination rate.

“When it comes to COVID, we now have 98 per cent of Bendigonians and Central Victorians that are double jabbed, that puts us in a good position,” he said.

Acting CEO of Bendigo Health David Rosaia said on Monday there were 20 COVID-19 patients at Bendigo Hospital, two of whom are children.

“A large number come from Mildura, but we also see a portion of Swan Hill, Castlemaine, the Bendigo community and also Gisborne,” he said.

“The Omicron strain is an upper respiratory inflammation, at this point in time there’s less hospitalisations considering case numbers, so we encourage everybody to get vaccinated and get their booster.”

Mr Rosaia said there he is not concerned about the number of hospital beds in the Loddon Mallee region, and all health systems would be able to manage a “significant surge” in COVID-19 cases.

“All services are prepared, we identified it as between 150-200 beds in the Loddon Mallee in the event of a surge, that’s quite a high number of beds.”

Changes to healthcare workers furloughing guidelines have helped ease pressure on staff numbers, with staff able to continue to work if they are a close contact, provided they are asymptomatic, wear an N95 mask, spend meal breaks separate from other staff and isolate at home as required.

“On average we have between 50 to 55 staff at Bendigo Health who are furloughed each day and at this point in time we’re managing to continue to staff our hospital to ensure safety for everybody,” Mr Rosaia said.

Bendigo Health is also looking at how allied health staff can help more in wards, and what level of support student nurses can provide.

Mr Rosaia also said messaging around when to go to the emergency department has helped reduce ED presentations by 30 per cent.

Bendigo Health encourages people with no-to-mild COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting a test result to not present to the emergency department, to reduce the strain on the service.