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Extra Virus Protection For Torres Strait Health Workers

Ventilation hoods to protect healthcare workers sent to hospitals in the Torres Strait after vaccinations were paused.

TORRES STRAIT ISLAND REGIONAL, Australia — Healthcare workers treating Covid cases in Australia’s Torres Strait will be given extra protection against the virus as the outbreak in neighboring Papua New Guinea grows.

The first of three ventilation hoods were transported to the hospital on Thursday Island off the tip of Cape York in Queensland’s far north. It is the referral hospital for seventeen Primary Health Care Centres in the Torres Strait Islands.

“Particularly in light of the recent clusters in Queensland being traced back to health staff, providing additional layers of protective equipment is essential to protect not just the health professionals treating Covid patients, but also the broader community,” John Hall, president at Rural Doctors Association of Australia, said.

Vaccinations in the region have been a priority given the number of vulnerable communities and proximity to Papua New Guinea, but the rollout was paused last week in response to changing advice for the AstraZeneca jab.

“The recommendation that Pfizer vaccine is administered to under the 50s in preference to AstraZeneca for people who have not yet had their first dose,” Tony Brown, executive director, Torres and Cape of Medical Services, said.

“It has implications for regions such as ours where the majority of our population base is aged under 50.”

“We will keep our communities informed as we firm up plans for the continuing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program across our region and the delivery of second doses to communities such as Saibai, Boigu, and Dauan, which have already had their first doses.”

The transparent plastic cover of the Medihoods fits above the head and torso of suspected Covid patients, acting as a physical barrier between them and health workers, and a pump sucks air from within the hood to a hospital-grade air filter.

“Given the potential for coronavirus to spread to Thursday Island from Papua New Guinea, the McMonty Medihoods will be a critical tool in helping protect health professionals and other patients at Thursday Island Hospital,” Dan Halliday, chairperson, Royal Doctors Association Queensland Foundation said.

The Australian-made Medihoods were funded by the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland Foundation and Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

Apart from the Covid vaccine, the Royal Doctors Association Queensland Foundation tweeted about the importance of the ‘regular vaccine,’ which is neglected by the general public due to the outbreak.

“Flu vax can help you to get through winter without becoming really ill. It would be best if you still got this vaccine in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine as they become eligible,” read the tweet.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra)

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