The latest announcement today slashing the AstraZeneca dose interval in half from 12 to six weeks was welcomed by South West Healthcare.
Community members are encouraged to walk in or book their first or second AstraZeneca dose, SWH COVID-19 Coordinator Toinette Hutchins said.
"We have enough supply of AstraZeneca vaccines to be able to handle this latest change and we can continue to take walk-ins for AstraZeneca for people who wish to both receive their first and second dose," she said.
"Anyone who had a booked appointment for their second dose of AstraZeneca at 12 weeks is welcome to cancel and rebook in order to bring it forward."
The demand for vaccines in Warrnambool has not waned, with 1647 first Pfizer doses and 328 second doses administered at SWH Warrnambool vaccination hub this week.
There were 378 first doses and 627 second doses of AstraZeneca delivered.
Strong demand continues to come from all members of the community "regardless of age" Ms Hutchins said.
The dosage interval for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been reduced from 12 weeks to six weeks.
It brings the interval in line with the Pfizer vaccine, which is also given six weeks apart.
The changes come as evidence shows a double dose is the highest protection against the Delta COVID-19 variant.
There are 52,000 AstraZeneca appointments available for booking in the next two weeks, the state's acting chief health officer said.
"It's about getting as many second doses into people as we possibly can," Professor Ben Cowie said.
He advised those with a first dose of AstraZeneca not to delay until 12 weeks and rebook sooner.
"So this change, and the additional supply of Pfizer vaccine from the Commonwealth when it arrives and Victoria, will help us to reach our vaccination targets faster, but more importantly they will really contribute to our to the response to community transmission.
"This will put a downward pressure on cases and contribute to protecting our health system as we look after all Victorians.
"The current outbreak in Victoria, and the ongoing situation in New South Wales, is just evidence of what we need to protect as many Victorians as we can as quickly as we can.
"Please book your appointment today, either in the state system, or with your local general practice or pharmacy, and if you have any questions or concerns, as always, you can talk to your trusted local GP, pharmacist or other senior immuniser."
Children are the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria's Chief Psychiatrist Dr Neil Coventry said.
Dr Coventry is concerned children and teenagers and their families may be forgotten in the pandemic.
His advice to families in particular is to access help, reach out to the school community and resources like Kids Helpline and Headspace.
"It's really important to acknowledge kids' feelings to recognise and help them to understand how they can manage these stresses that they're experiencing," Dr Coventry said.
He said the COVID pandemic was a time of uncertainty.
"We're all feeling to some extent confused and very uncertain about the future," he said
"This is a very normal reaction to an un-normal situation we're experiencing."
Dr Coventry said most people would be able to cope, but some people were really struggling.
He emphasised help was available and people should reach out to those who need extra help.
Dr Coventry said the mental health of children, teenagers and families was really being impacted.
He had three messages he wanted to tell these people.
Dr Coventry said children and parents need to feel positive that children are resilient and will mostly be able to cope with the situation.
He stressed parents can do things to help their children like maintaining a normal routine and talking to children about how they are coping.
Lastly, he stressed help for both children and families was available.
He advised in the first instance parents should reach out their child's school and GP, while headspace and other services were available.
Dr Coventry said he was concerned the impact on children and teenagers could be overlooked.
The Royal Children's Hospital has seen an increase in young people presenting with mental health conditions such as self harm, depression, anxiety and aggression.
RCH Director of Mental Health Ric Haslam said there had been a notable rise in anxiety and depression in young people across the state including regional areas.
He said the emergency department alone had seen a 30 to 80 per cent increase in presentations for mental health compared to the year before.
Trusted and reliable information is available on the Royal Children's Hospital website to support parents and recognise their child might be struggling.
"We're all feeling, to some extent, confused and very uncertain about the future ... this is a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation."
There has been a "notable" rise in anxiety and depression in young people across Victoria, both in regional and metropolitan areas, Dr Ric Haslam from the Royal Children's Hospital said.
The coronavirus Delta variant is not spreading in concerning levels throughout regional Victoria, the state's acting chief health officer said.
On Thursday Professor Cowie said the Shepparton outbreak hasn't seeded across the regions, putting areas outside Melbourne in a strong position to see an easing of restrictions next week.
"Thankfully, we're not seeing an ongoing high rate of community transmission in regional Victoria, which is an incredible achievement," Professor Cowie said.
"There's been no identified onward transmission that we're aware of from the exposures in Shepparton and Echuca."
Professor Cowie said the 13 new cases found in Shepparton were the result of day 13 testing.
There are 61 Victorians in hospital, 20 of which are in intensive care with 13 on a ventilator.
The breakdown of the 176 new cases:
- 61 are in west Melbourne
- 67 in north Melbourne
- 22 in east and south Melbourne
- 13 in Shepparton
- 1 in Greater Geelong
- 3 are under investigation
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said cases are expected to rise.
"We have a rising case number and we all need to be increasingly on high alert with the increasing transmission of COVID-19," Minister Foley said.
Victorian acting chief health officer Ben Cowie said the geographic spread of today's cases are concerning.
"There's no corner of Melbourne not touched by this virus," Professor Cowie said.
"The only way to drive this down is to do it together.
"If someone you know says it's ok to visit friends and family even for just a short period we remind them the virus is here right now.
"It is spreading fast and the increasing case numbers are a herald of what our health system is going to be faced with in the coming weeks and months.
"Some young people think because you're young and fit then it won't be a problem to you - young people do and some of them get really sick."
Three quarters of the active cases are aged under 40.
12 per cent of today's cases are aged under 50.
Of the current 1029 active cases in Victoria, 192 are between the aged of 10 and 19, 243 are between 20 and 29, and 183 in people aged 30 to 39.
Victoria has recorded 176 new coronavirus cases, with 84 infections linked to known COVID-19 outbreaks.
This means the source of more than a hundred cases are still to be identified.
There are now 1029 active cases of COVID-19 in the state
No new cases acquired overseas.
33,720 vaccine doses were administered and 48,372 test results were received
More to come.
IN OTHER NEWS
Meanwhile Victoria is further tightening its border with NSW, with Premier Daniel Andrews indicating it could remain closed until the end of the year.
As COVID-19 cases rise across both sides of the Murray River, six Victorian and two NSW local government areas will be tossed out of the state's border bubble from 11.59pm on Thursday.
It means residents from Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, City of Benalla, Buloke, Loddon, Yarriambiack, Broken Hill and Edward River will be unable to cross the state lines on a permit.
"With over one thousand cases per day, and a trajectory of exponential growth, the risk that NSW poses to Victoria is bigger than ever," Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Earlier, Premier Daniel Andrews was asked if the border could remain shut to NSW "well into next year".
He replied: "Yes. No one is happy about that but again we will have many more options once we get to 80 per cent and once they (NSW) are at 80 per cent."
It comes as the Victorian government conceded efforts to bring coronavirus cases down to zero have failed, with tough restrictions to remain in place until October.
Authorities have now shifted their focus to suppressing the outbreak, keeping the health system from being overwhelmed, while racing to reach higher vaccination coverage.
The state's current restrictions, which include a 9pm to 5am curfew and a five- kilometre travel limit, will remain until about September 23, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to have received the first vaccine dose.
After hitting that mark, there will be slightly more freedom, including the travel limit expanding to 10km and the time limit on exercise increasing to three hours.
Playgrounds, however, will reopen on Friday for children aged 12 and under with the supervision of just one parent or guardian, who must wear a mask at all times and check-in.
Mr Andrews said regional Victoria, with the exception of Shepparton, where a virus outbreak is still growing, could emerge from lockdown as early as next week.
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