Respiratory physicians and other TSANZ members have been asked to step up and become COVID-19 vaccination advocates to their patients and in the broader community.
In the latest TSANZ newsletter, TSANZ president Professor John Upham called for members to use their influence now that we have access to vaccines that are highly effective at preventing severe disease.
“Let’s remind ourselves that life-threatening COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease,” he wrote.
“Twelve months ago, there were few effective therapeutic approaches. The current COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, and the large numbers of people in intensive care, illustrate that this is not the time for complacency.”
“Vaccination is the clear pathway out of lock down and for reducing the risk that we become unwitting disease vectors, spreading the virus to family, friends, and colleagues.”
Speaking to the limbic from the current COVID lockdown in Brisbane, Professor Upham added that advocacy was part of the health professional’s duty of care to the community.
“At a clinical level, we have to deal with the people who are right in front of us but we have also got a duty of care to the community at large and that includes advocating for healthy behaviours, making sure that the community is as safe as possible, making sure that people are held accountable where there are adverse exposures, and really advocating on behalf of our patients in the community.”
He said health professionals and their organisations could be backing up the public health effort by government and chief health officers.
“I can’t magically get a million doses of vaccine but I think I can play a role in talking to my patients who may have questions or are a bit hesitant or unsure. I think having examples of patients or healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists – who say they have had their vaccine, it normalises the situation a little bit and helps put a face to the campaign. It’s not just something the government is doing far away in Canberra.”
In the TSANZ newsletter he suggested that health professionals make their vaccination advocacy personal.
“As TSANZ members we can all play a vital role as vaccine advocates on behalf of our patients and the community. Consider engaging social media to advocate for vaccination, perhaps posting a photo of yourself being vaccinated or sharing a copy of your vaccine certificate,” he wrote.
Long term COVID impact
Professor Upham told the limbic that respiratory physicians could be dealing with the impact of the pandemic for years to come.
“The people who get very severe COVID tend to go to ICU and we don’t have quite so much involvement but there are a couple of issues that perhaps haven’t had the attention they deserve. One of them is people with pre-existing lung diseases and their susceptibility to COVID and having bad outcomes from COVID.”
“And the other issue is …there are a group of people who never had anything wrong with their lungs, get bad COVID and are in hospital for a while and then start to get scar tissue in their lungs and seem to have long term health problems.”
“We are only just starting to understand the full extent of that as time goes by and we see more and more people with this sort of problem. Even if we get to the point where the pandemic dies off and goes away, we are probably going to be dealing with some of the long term sequelae of that for years to come.”