AIS specialist vaccination clinic caters to people in ACT with highest risk of getting a severe reaction from COVID-19 jab | The Canberra Times


Every Monday, the Australian Institute of Sport mass vaccination clinic ushers 12 “very brave” Canberrans into a special section that is cordoned off from the rest of the arena. The seats are reserved for a small minority of people deemed most at risk of developing a severe reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. The specialist vaccination clinic primarily caters to Canberrans who may have a history of anaphylaxis reaction to immunisation, multiple or severe allergies to medications, severe reactions to a previous COVID vaccination, extreme needle phobia or complex immune conditions. Media sensationalism, government flip-flopping, and targeted campaigns by anti-vaxxers have caused vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the community. However, clinical nurse co-ordinator at the clinic, Brendan Higgins, said most were “very grateful” to get the vaccine. READ MORE: “Most of the people that come into the clinic are very grateful for the opportunity to actually get vaccinated and help protect Canberrans as well as themselves,” he said. “Before they come to our clinic, we actually contact them personally to offer them an appointment into our clinic and book them in. “Once they come in the door … we run through their experiences and potentially why they’re here and any indications for why they’re being referred through the service.” Patients receive one-on-one care with a highly-trained nurse, often from the intensive care unit or emergency department, and are monitored for at least half an hour after the injection. Staff specialist Dr Ben Harkness said “some people just might be more prone to allergy or anaphylaxis.” A GP will refer these cases to the Canberra Hospital immunology department for triage before being booked into the specialist clinic. Dr Harkness said when they first arrive, they feel “a lot of anxiety, a lot of apprehension.” “A lot of people who are genuinely at risk [of reacting badly to an] immunisation, but they obviously want to be protected against COVID,” he said. “It’s a very brave step for them to come and see us in the clinic, knowing they’re more likely to or potentially [are] at risk of having a more significant reaction.” Dr Harkness said it was a “safe space” that had been very well-received by GPs and patients alike. “I believe most people are aware, but it’s also good to get some publicity out there to people who are potentially worried or are not getting vaccines done, because there is a service that we can offer them to help that,” he said. “Popular is probably the wrong word to use, but [the service is] very well prescribed, which is great. We’ve got capacity to have 12 people per clinic and pretty much every clinic has been fully booked.” While the Therapeutic Goods Administration reports there is no increased risk of anaphylaxis in response to AstraZeneva and Pfizer doses, there is a very rare chance of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction to any vaccine. In 2019, the Department of Health reported that 3782 Australians may have had a severe adverse reaction to any vaccine, including 66 in the ACT. These reactions could include hospitalisation, a life-threatening reaction or death. Only one death reported to the TGA in 2019 was deemed as having been “consistent with a causal association with vaccination.” As of Monday, November 1, the TGA had reported 1734 COVID-19 deaths in Australia, including 60 under in people under the age of 49. Eleven of those were recorded in the ACT. A man in his 60s and a woman in her 70s died with COVID-19 on Sunday. They had been receiving intensive care. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said neither was vaccinated. There are currently eight people hospitalised with coronavirus in Canberra, three of whom are in intensive care and requiring ventilation. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT and the lockdown is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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