COVID in Mid Coast "not a risk, but a certainty"

Plenty of AstraZeneca: Dr Simon Holliday and Helen Holliday at the Taree HealthHub. Photo: Julia Driscoll
Plenty of AstraZeneca: Dr Simon Holliday and Helen Holliday at the Taree HealthHub. Photo: Julia Driscoll

Community concern is high, and rumours of a COVID case in Taree are doing the rounds (untrue), the day after a snap seven day lockdown was announced for the Hunter and Upper Hunter, and with seven cases in that region.

And we are right to be concerned, according to Dr Simon Holliday, who runs the Taree Respiratory Clinic - the COVID testing and vaccination facility in Butterworth Carpark.

When asked about the risk of the current outbreak reaching the MidCoast local government area, he said, "I don't think it's a risk, I think it's a certainty. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

He echoes other medical professionals who say that COVID is going to be around for a very long time.

"Unfortunately we're all going to get COVID, every one of us, whether we're vaccinated or unvaccinated. The difference is, if you're vaccinated it will get as far as your throat and your nose, and it will give you a cold, unless you've got some underlying terrible illness of the immune system.

"If you're unvaccinated it will go down to your lungs, and that is when all the terrible, tragic stuff happens. It's a disaster and it's very hard to stop," Dr Holliday said.

He is seeing people panicking about the virus and now rushing to get vaccinated, something he predicted would happen when talking to the Manning River Times in May, 2021, saying then we were in a "fool's paradise" and risking disaster by not using that COVID-quiet period to protect ourselves.

"Everyone's saying "I'll just see how it goes", but when it comes, it's going to be too late," Dr Holliday said at the time.

"You don't clean your gutters on your roof just before the embers start forming. We have to realise this is a natural disaster and do what we can do to protect ourselves and our family, and that means get out and get vaccinated."

He sounds exhausted, and has admitted in the not-too-long-ago past that COVID and the vaccination rollout are taking a toll on the mental health of medical professionals and their staff.

One of the reasons for that is the way they are being treated by some members of the public, often aggressively.

"We did 180 Pfizers on Saturday (July 31) and we had half a dozen over 60s bullying their way in, wouldn't take no for answer. Their backsides weren't going to move off the chair," Dr Holliday said.

The other reason is the never-ending fight to counteract the insidious misinformation about COVID and vaccinations that just won't go away.

"People who have been getting their information from Sky News and some of the extremists in the Liberal/National parties, and getting their information from Facebook, unfortunately they're putting themselves in a terrible position.

"We're doing all we can to help those people get to a safe position but people have got to get their feet on the ground, get their head out of the internet, and stop listening to these people, who are evangelical, talking nonsense with conviction.

"There are a lot of people who are foolish, who believe bizarre things. We can't let those people indirectly cause the death and illness in our community.

"Unfortunately, you can't vaccinate against foolishness," Dr Holliday said.