Have the jab, pleads Warnbro COVID survivor

Exclusive, Jake DietschSound Telegraph
Dr Eoin McDonnell and Maureen Pope outside the Port Kennedy Respitory Centre
Camera IconDr Eoin McDonnell and Maureen Pope outside the Port Kennedy Respitory Centre

After the three-day lockdown gave us another reminder about the realities of life in the coronavirus era, fear is putting the solution on ice.

Thousands of vials of COVID vaccines are sitting unused at the Port Kennedy Respiratory Clinic, with doctors saying exaggerated fears of blood clots are scaring patients away from getting the jab. The clinic is a Commonwealth funded facility and receives about 1200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine per week.

Clinic practice principal Dr Eoin McDonnell said in the first few weeks from March 23, the clinic was vaccinating between 150 and 160 people every day.

But Dr McDonnell said after the issue of rare side effects of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine was reported and the Federal Government advised those under 50 should wait for the Pfizer vaccine, bookings dropped off.

“A lot of the over 50s have been scared away because of the side effects,” he said.

Dr Eoin McDonnell with vials of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Camera IconDr Eoin McDonnell with vials of the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Picture: Jake Dietsch

Dr McDonnell said the clinic was now only administering 40 to 50 doses per day and had 2000 vials sitting in its fridge.

“For those over 50, the risk of these blood clots is extremely rare — at about one in 200,000-300,000. When COVID comes back the risk is far greater,” he said. “If you get COVID, the risk of these blood clots is 10 times greater than from the vaccine.

“We’ve got so many vaccines sitting in the fridge. They need to be in people’s arms.”

Dr McDonnell said every medication had potential side effects.

“Women who are on the pill have a risk of blood clots of about 1 in 10,000,” he said. “The benefits (of vaccines) far outweigh the possible side effects.”

Warnbro resident Maureen Pope, 86, contracted COVID last year, and after a stint in Royal Perth’s ICU, is pleading with people to get vaccinated. Ms Pope and her daughter flew to Dubai in March 2020, before setting off on a cruise to Italy.

At the time there weren’t many cases in Italy and the insurance company wouldn’t offer a refund.

“Just off Crete, a person on the ship was put off there and they discovered that she had COVID,” Ms Pope said. “After that, they locked down the ship. Then they took us to Rome.”

Maureen Pope is encouraging others to get vaccinated
Camera IconMaureen Pope is encouraging others to get vaccinated Credit: Picture: Jake Dietsch

Ms Pope said her flight home was mixed up with passengers from other ships and it was on the way back to Perth she believes she caught the virus.

She arrived in Australia on March 27 and started her hotel quarantine. After a few days she became sick and was taken to Royal Perth Hospital where she stayed until Anzac Day 2020.

“You’re just so really ill,” Ms Pope said. “I had to learn to walk again. And my daughter bought me flowers last week. She said ‘Mum, it’s a year since they rang me and said you’re going to die’.”

After leaving Rockingham Hospital, where she had rehabilitation, Ms Pope still had months of physiotherapy and her memory has long-term damage.

She said those who refused the vaccine were “absolutely crazy”. “Have the vaccination. It’s not only for themselves, it’s for other people,” Ms Pope said.

To book an appointment, view the COVID eligibility checker at health.gov.au.

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