OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
How we're keeping you safe.
Updated Novemver 17, 2021.
The final push towards 90%+ and the permanent end of lockdowns is on! As we've said all year, the path out of this devastating pandemic is vaccination, and we are very fortunate that many of the world's best scientists worked day and night to bring us a selection of fantastic vaccines. These have been extensively studied for safety and effectiveness. We have both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Although minor infections after vaccination are still possible, these vaccines are highly effective at protecting against hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 disease, including variants. The vaccines are completely free of charge, if you have Medicare. If you do not have Medicare, we do not have the capacity to give you the vaccine. Please book at a state run vaccination hub.
Still waiting for your Digital Certificate?
Unfortunately, the Australian Government is still using a manual system to register your immunisation data. With the current rush on vaccinations, this means that it may take up to four weeks after your second shot for your digital certificate to become available. There is nothing we can do from our end to speed up the process, but if your situation is urgent, we suggest you call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 and ask them to upload your vaccinations for you directly.
Third/booster vaccine doses
These are now being given to people who are classed as "severely immunocompromised." See the statement from ATAGI for details. If unsure, please book an appointment with your doctor - our receptionists are not qualified to advise on this. To book your third dose via our website, choose "Covid-19 vaccine Dose 3" - Pfizer is the recommended choice for most people, at least four weeks after the second dose. Booster doses for other people have also commenced, and are recommended six months after the second dose.
Entry to the clinic only for the fully vaccinated
With Victoria reaching Phase C of reopening at 80% double dose, only people who have received two doses of a Covid vaccine will now be permitted to enter our clinic, unless they have a valid exemption letter or are attending for vaccination. This difficult decision has been made to protect the safety of our vulnerable patients, as well as our staff, by minimising the risk of the virus entering our building. Some people have health issues that limit the protection that the rest of us receive from vaccination. The policy coincides with similar restrictions in public venues across the state and country. If done elsewhere, proof of vaccination will be required for entry. Video and phone consultations will continue to be available to everyone.
Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty Vaccine
This mRNA vaccine is the preferred vaccine for those under 60, due to its very slightly favourable safety profile. It's now available to everyone from age 12 and up, although the AstraZeneca vaccine is generally still preferred for people over 60. Although we've been booked out for the last few weeks, we have recently secured extra supply, allowing us to open up more sessions. The recommended gap between the two doses is back to three weeks, due to the ongoing outbreak in Melbourne and availability.
Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaxzevria Vaccine
This vaccine is available to all Australians over the age of 18. It is recommended for everyone over 60, and also anyone aged 18-59 who does not want to wait until they can access the Pfizer vaccine, as long as they have considered the well-publicised, but very small safety issues (see below) with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The gap between doses that is recommended during Victoria's outbreak is 4-6 weeks. We have plenty of supply of this vaccine.
Are these vaccines safe?
Yes - both of these vaccines are now among the most extensively researched vaccines ever to be used in Australia, with literally billions of carefully monitored doses having now been given worldwide.
The most common side effects from both of the vaccines are injection site discomfort or swelling, headache, aches and pains, chills and fever, but these symptoms are generally mild and last less than a day or two. Ongoing monitoring expands our knowledge further, every day. For the Australian experience so far, see here.
This vaccine is being manufactured here in Melbourne. Millions of Australians have now received the Astra vaccine, including several thousand from our clinic. The most serious risks identified are anaphylaxis and a rare blood clotting disorder. The anaphylaxis risk is similar to most other vaccines, at about 1-5 per one million doses. We are set up to manage anaphylaxis on site. The clotting issue is a condition called Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). It has been seen in around one person per 70,000 doses given, in people over 60 years. It starts 4-40 days after (mainly the first) vaccination and the usual symptoms are persistent severe headache or abdominal pain. Treatment of this condition is now very effective as doctors have shared information gathered over time. More here.
This vaccine has proven to be extremely safe and effective. Like all vaccines, there is a tiny risk of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), similar to the Astra vaccine. Very rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis) occur in around 1 in 50,000 people. This is generally self-limiting. People with heart conditions are not at increased risk of this issue occuring, and have even more reason to have the vaccine, since Covid-19 infection is more dangerous for these patients. More information here.
Frequently asked questions on vaccine safety and misinformation are answered by the Department of Health here.
How do I book?
Book using our HotDoc App or via our website here. To book the Pfizer vaccine you must be eligible (see above).
There are three steps at our entrance, so please call reception if you have mobility issues.
What if I'm still not sure whether to have it?
Consider this: life is full of choices around risk. There is an extremely tiny risk of serious side effects with being vaccinated, but there's a VASTLY greater risk with delaying vaccination. A risk we have all lived with for a year and a half, and it ends when you get immunised. This virus is not going away, and sooner or later we will all be exposed to it. If you survive it, someone you pass it onto may not.
This is the most dangerous new virus to come to Australia in over 100 years. Of the people infected, around 1-2% die, 10% are hospitalised and 20% are unwell for months. It has killed around five million people, devastated economies around the world and isolated people everywhere. No one has been untouched by this virus.
Most Australians are now fully vaccinated, including all our staff and their families, and we're all fine! The vaccine is highly protective against both hospitalisation and death, and it's also effective at reducing transmission. It's our ticket back to normality. Contrast all that to the risk of serious side-effects - less than one in 50,000. Why take the risk of NOT being vaccinated?
These vaccines are new - what about long term side effects?
Tens of thousands of people had the vaccines in trials during the first half of 2020 and have been followed closely since then, without any concerns appearing. And since no vaccine has ever caused long term problems, nor should they - they're broken down by the body within weeks - there is no reason to think this will be an issue.
I trust my immune system
That's fair enough - it's got you this far. But unless you have never had a vaccine, your immune system is educated. Vaccination is like sending your immune system to school, and all those childhood vaccines have prevented us from getting all sorts of dangerous diseases, like diphtheria, polio and tetanus - even when we've travelled. Now, to keep you safe once more, your immune system needs a diploma in defending you from Covid-19. There are dozens of people on ventilators in Melbourne today - including healthy young people and people who have been in ICU for months - who wish they'd gone and done that already.
Everyone's situation is different, and some people still have doubts despite all this information - and that's perfectly ok. Please book an appointment to discuss your vaccination concerns with your doctor.
Video or phone consultations are now preferred, where practical
During the current outbreak, telehealth or phone consultations are booked by default. Following a telehealth consultation, the doctor may ask you to come in for an examination or procedure. If you feel your issue requires an in-person consultation, please phone to discuss with a receptionist.
After booking a telehealth consultation, you will receive a link that will connect you to your doctor's screen when the consultation commences. Note that just like in-person consultations, at times the doctor may be running a little late for your appointment, due to unforeseen issues.
For those unable to use video conferencing, telephone consultations are still available.
Patients to be seen are asked to wait in their car or on our front porch until called by the doctor. If you are walking to the clinic and the weather is unpleasant, or the porch seats are taken, there is limited seating available in our waiting room. Anyone in the waiting room must be free of symptoms of the coronavirus. They will be kept a safe distance apart.
Any person entering the building is asked to wear a mask and use the hand sanitiser at the front door.
Please DO NOT enter the building if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (loss of sense of smell or taste, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath or fever) or you are in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine.
The staff at Prahran East Medical Centre thank you very much for your kind cooperation and understanding.
Free testing available
Free (bulk-billed) testing via nose and throat swab is booked by calling reception. Our nurse will meet you at the rear of the building and either perform the test or instruct on self-testing. Alternatively, if you feel you may require examination by a doctor, you can be assessed and tested by a doctor onsite. First a doctor will call you to confirm your eligibility and book your swab test. Book this free telehealth consultation via the button at the top of this page.
Anyone with symptoms should get tested. Symptoms that warrant testing are a new onset of cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, or fever (or symptoms of fever, like chills or sweats), where another cause for the fever is not obvious. For health and aged care workers and those with close contact with an affected case, testing is also performed for less specific symptoms, like headache, muscle pains, blocked nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
Cost of telehealth and phone consultations
The fees for telehealth and phone consultations are the same as face-to-face visits and are time-based. See our Fees page.
Fees will be charged after consultations automatically, with Medicare rebates going into your bank account, arranged by us. We will call you for a credit card number prior to your consultation.
Consultations that involve phone and in-person components with the same doctor, on the same day, for the same problem are charged as a single consultation, for the total time taken.
We encourage everyone to download the COVIDSafe App to enhance contact tracing, which we hope will help to further limit the spread of the virus.
See here for daily updates on COVID-19 from the Victorian Health Department.
An excellent video explaining COVID-19 in detail, from the Head of Infectious Diseases at Heidelberg's Austin Hospital and friend of PEMC, A/Prof Patrick Charles, is here, with updates here: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9.
Excellence. Empathy.. Every Encounter.