COVID-19 and Halls Creek

Musa Mono, Director of Health and Regulatory Services from the Shire of Halls Creek,recently sat down with Olabud Doogethu to talk about the threat of COVID-19 and the importance of vaccinating to protect your loved ones.

The community needs to take action

The major point of concern is, there seems to be vaccine hesitancy in the population of Halls Creek. That is a major point of concern considering the pandemic that we have at the moment, and the fact that the fourth wave of the pandemic seems to have entered Australia and is now spreading in the community. It is most severe in the Eastern states, but it is now within the community and being transmitted from person to person.

I think the Federal Government and the State Government of Western Australia is doing a good job in trying to control this. There is a lot of sacrifice they are making in terms of economic growth and development.There’s a lot they’re sacrificing to try and contain this. The current control tools are closing the borders, limiting international travel, quarantining people from outside the country, lockdowns – for the places that are already affected – and contact tracing… That is what the governments are doing to help the community in Australia. But in all cases, where you have a disease outbreak, there are several stakeholders who must take action.

While the governments are taking the right course of action, we need the community to do the same. What is lacking in Halls Creek is the community’s part in controlling this, in making sure that we don’t get devastated by the outbreak. Social distancing, washing your hands,maintaining good hygiene, and wearing a mask, using QR codes or registering in public places are some of the ways the community can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But the most effective tool for the control of this disease is vaccinations.

Health experts talk about “herd immunity” where a population achieves a certain amount of immunity against the disease and that tends to prevent outbreaks, or severe infections and deaths in populations. Currently, the estimate is that when we have 70-80% of the adult population vaccinated, we will achieve herd immunity. But the big fear now is that we can reach 70-80% of the Australian population, when actually within our own Shire, we are way less than 30-40% in terms of people vaccinated.

Social media and misinformation

There is a lot of information circulating. Let’s face it: misinformation is spread through social media. Every time we see something sensational on Facebook,we share it. If you are sharing misinformation, then more people will be reached with that misinformation.

The problem is that the media puts so much emphasis on that one case of a vaccinated person who gets side effects, that it begins looking like everybody will get it. We have hundreds of thousands of people that have been successfully vaccinated, and only a handful who have gotten blood clots or side effects, for instance.

Those hundreds of thousands of people are protected from severe COVID-19 disease, and yet, there is so much emphasis on the one person who gets side effects. We should note that our medical services can manage the reactions and side effects from the vaccines.

 

One of the arguments that I have heard is that the vaccine is new and we don’t know if there are any long-term side effects. Those are good arguments. Both the vaccine and disease are new and yes some medications do have long-term side effects.

At the end of the day, do you want to take the risk of suffering from COVID-19 without any protection, which could mean you get severe disease and may die, or take the vaccine with a risk of long-term effects which might not exist anywhere.It is a calculated risk which people should take after having received good information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

I’m not sure why and how people can feel so invincible, in the light of more than four million deaths right now in the world due to COVID-19 disease. Deaths were high in a lot of rich countries, like in Italy. You’re talking in the thousands of elderly people dying. By the time it got to the United States, you had both elderly and middle-aged people dying.

Underlying conditions

When we talk underlying conditions, people think it means serious diseases or conditions. Simply obesity, undernourishment or even being a smoker can be a problem. So there is no ways you can say 100% you are invincible to severe COVID-19 disease, and I think the safest thing people can do is to get the vaccine.

The vaccine does not stop you from getting the infection, but it does stop you from getting severe disease. It also makes the people that get infected, transmit the disease less than they would if they were unvaccinated.

The Delta Variant is a very infectious disease. They tried to contain it in Sydney, but it spread to Victoria, regional NSW and maybe even New Zealand. It has now affected Aboriginal communities in New South Wales, where there was a death in a community yesterday.

That there is a group of people that are immune and not vulnerable is a conclusion drawn out of misinformation and possibly the success of the WA Government in closing the borders to prevent entry of the disease into WA. 

How long can we keep the infection out using border closures? We have seen people driving through the Tanami and Duncan, while police are struggling to close those roads.

The local community should consider the option of vaccination. It is a responsible thing to do for ourselves, our families and our community.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.wa.gov.au; and to receive your vaccination please visit Yura Yungi Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation.