Bendigo doctors say it is only a matter of time before coronavirus resurfaces in Bendigo and are urging anyone without a COVID-19 vaccination in their arm to book in.
Bendigo Health clinical unit head for respiratory medicine and hospital in the home Emma Broadfield said the community had done well during the pandemic but there was still more work to do.
"The community been amazing and as result of their actions we have had very few cases up until now over the past 18 months," she said. "But we can't keep COVID out now. It is coming and it is all around us and we have to open up.
"The way we can protect ourselves and the services (when opening up) is through vaccination.
"For those who haven't been vaccinated yet, please, please, please get vaccinated to look after yourself, your families and loved ones, your community and the health services."
Dr Broadfield said she expected Bendigo to lead the way with vaccinations but that it was important to see the last 35 per cent of the population vaccinated.
"A number would be (unvaccinated) because they have not had access," she said. "But there is also a number of people who are high-risk or over 60 who have not been vaccinated. I plead with them to get vaccinated."
Bendigo Health infectious diseases physician Andrew Mahony reminded people the Delta COVID-19 strain could spread quickly.
"We've had the luxury of not having many cases in our region," he said.
"But right now (Loddon Mallee contract tracers) are helping out with Mildura, Cohuna and Woodend, who all have cases. That highlights (COVID) is not far from Bendigo. We're well and truly ready but we don't want to get to a stage where we are flat-out (in ICUs) like Melbourne."
Obstetrician Emma Buckland urged pregnant women to get vaccinated as soon as possible. "Pregnancy makes your immune system suppressed, that's how you can host a baby," she said.
"So when pregnant women get sick with something like the flu, chickenpox or COVID, they get really sick. That's why the government prioritised them for vaccinations and why I am pushing all the pregnant women in Bendigo to get vaccinated.
"There are a lot of studies in the US and UK that show it is safe for mums and babies to be vaccinated. If have any questions don't hesitate to ask your doctor or midwife."
Bendigo Health intensive care specialist Janice Yeung said people should be doing all they could to protect themselves from the coronavirus. "We know in intensive care, the vast majority of patients (with COVID) that are seriously unwell and end up in ICU are unvaccinated," she said.
"Here in Bendigo we have six ICU-equivalent beds, so you imagine how quickly it can become overwhelmed.
"We have been so incredibly lucky, the people of Bendigo have been awesome. But luck only goes so far. Already we know cases are popping up in the area, so it's only matter of time before we see it. It will get here and we want to be sure everyone is doing all they can to remain as healthy as they can."
Bendigo respiratory and vaccination centre director Ewa Piejko said her job as a general practitioner was to keep patients safe and healthy.
"My advice to you know, particularly if you're over 60, is there is vaccine available to you and I would love to see you get vaccinated," she said. "That's the best way to protect yourselves and families against COVID-19 and the consequences of getting it."
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