The dialogue around COVID-19 is changing, with Murrumbidgee Local Health District discussing how best to live with the virus and what that could look like in the future.
Chief executive Jill Ludford addressed the media at a press conference in Albury on Friday.
"As we move towards living with COVID I want to really talk about the vaccination rates and the impact of COVID on the health system here in Albury-Wodonga," she said.
"It's really important for the community to know that in Murrumbidgee Local Health District, we are partners with Albury Wodonga Health and are working and planning together.
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"Albury Wodonga Health are the providers of health care in this particular region, but we have a public health responsibility, so we are supporting Albury Wodonga Health in testing, vaccination and also recently we've taken over some care of COVID patients who are remaining isolating at home.
"So we've currently got 78 patients who are in our care in the community COVID pathway and we see that as an important part of supporting Albury Wodonga Health."
Ms Ludford said vaccination was the best way for people to protect themselves against the virus, but new treatments were becoming available.
"This week we've seen the introduction of booster doses in NSW," she said.
"Anybody who has completed their full vaccination program, they can come forward for their booster doses now and it doesn't matter if you have had AstraZeneca or Moderna the booster is a Pfizer dose.
"There are drugs that we can use on people with chronic disease if we catch them in the first five days of their illness when they're symptomatic and they can have an infusion at the moment and that really reduces their risk of hospitalisation and death.
"And we heard on the news this morning that Australia has ordered 300,000 doses of an oral version of that medication, which, again, will be much easier for us to distribute and those COVID cases don't even need to go to hospital."
Ms Ludford said social measures, like mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene and testing also continued to be important moving forward to living with COVID.
"I'm really encouraging people particularly if you are working, not to go into the workplaces if you have any kind of symptoms and please with again the slightest hint of a symptoms please go across to one of our testing clinics," she said.
"The message today is that COVID-19 is still around us, but there are a whole lot of layers of protection we can use to protect ourselves.
"So if you think of all the layers of protection that you can put around yourself that's how you can live safely in the community."
She said vulnerable population groups, such as the under 12's who hadn't yet had access to vaccination, faced different challenges.
"So bring on that vaccine for the five to 11 year olds," she said.
"We're all eagerly looking at the US and the UK and the TGA approval of that vaccine, because that will take out a whole layer of our population who are really vulnerable."
Ms Ludford said Albury's high vaccination rates, including in the 13 to 15 age group which had jumped from 33 per cent to 46.9 per cent in the space of a week, were a great protective factor for the community.
"So the message really is now that we're a protected community and we can get on with going back and living our lives, but COVID is not going away so we need to make sure that we continue to really abide by those public health measures," she said.
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