New vaccine centre open in Sale

One of the first patients through the new centres doors, Sale resident Julie Hodge, receives an AstraZeneca vaccine from Dr John Curran. She said she chose to receive the vaccine to protect her family and the older generation.

Sarah Luke

WELLINGTON Shire’s residents now have access to Pfizer, after Sale’s COVID-19 vaccine community clinic opened at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex in Cobains Rd on Wednesday.

The clinic’s opening means Pfizer will be able to be delivered locally for the first time since the vaccine’s rollout, as well as offering another avenue for people to access AstraZeneca.

Sale joins Wonthaggi and Traralgon as the only towns in Gippsland to have community clinics, with another three set to roll out in East Gippsland, South Gippsland and Baw Baw shires in the next few weeks.

Currently, the Sale clinic has capacity for more than 100 people for vaccine appointments per day, with walk-ins for AstraZeneca available from next week, but Gippsland public health unit operations manager Annelies Titulaer expected that number to ramp up to upwards of 200 to 300 per day.

“At the Traralgon clinic, it was a bit of a slow start initially, but we’re definitely seeing it book out, and our walk-in numbers have been quite astounding,” she said.

“We’re seeing upwards of 300 a day at the Traralgon Racecourse Clinic, and I’m sure we’ll see similar numbers throughout the clinics as they stand up across Gippsland as well.”

Ms Titulaer said the Sale clinic would open up access to the vaccines for more Gippslanders.

“Rather than everyone travelling huge distances to be able to access the vaccine, they’ll be able to access it at a local community clinic,” she said.

The current COVID-19 cluster growing in Melbourne was certainly contributing to walk-in numbers in the other Gippsland clinics, Ms Titulaer said.

“I think there definitely would be some increased awareness around accessing the vaccine because of the cases, recognising that we can’t be complacent and that we’re still very much amidst a pandemic,” she said.

“We’re quite fortunate that we don’t have huge case numbers, but there’s always that potential, which we’re seeing currently.

“I think people accessing the vaccine and then sharing their experience with their family and friends, I think that’s been really positive.”

Ms Titulaer said the Gippsland rollout had resulted in more than 7000 people being vaccinated.

“The community clinics are being well attended, and I understand that the GP rollout is going quite well within the Gippsland region,” she said.

“We started off with the public residential aged care facilities, and then those priority health care work groups as well, and now we’re opened up to the public in terms of over 50 for AstraZeneca, and further eligibility cohorts for phase 1b under the age of 50 for Pfizer have opened up as well, so I’m quite confident that we’ll see increased numbers of attendance throughout the Gippsland region.

“We’ve got a good supply of vaccine at the moment within Gippsland, so that’s really encouraging to be able to support the demand as we have these community clinics stand up throughout the region.

“All we want is a safe and effective rollout so that all Gippslanders who want to access the vaccine will be able to do so.”

Ms Titulaer recognised there were some concerns throughout the state and the country about vaccine safety.

“There’s some really great resources to make those evidence-based decisions for yourself, and then asking questions if you’re still not sure so you can make the right decision for you and your family,” she said.

Victorians aged under 50 in several priority groups can now receive the Pfizer vaccine, including critical and high-risk workers such as emergency services workers, Australian Defence Force personnel and licenced meat and seafood processing workers; adults with specified underlying health conditions, or severe mental health conditions; disability services workers and carers of people with disabilities, both paid and unpaid; paid and unpaid carers of people who are aged over 70, or who have specified underlying medical conditions, and public-facing transport workers, including public transport, taxi and ride share drivers.

This is in addition to many more healthcare and aged care workers, hotel quarantine and border workers and others who are already eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine if they are aged under 50.

People who are aged under 50 year eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine must make a booking at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex at Cobains Rd, Sale, by phoning 1800 675 398.

Walk-ins for AstraZeneca will be accepted at the clinic from next week onwards. The clinic will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week from May 24, from 9.30am to 3pm (subject to change).

The Sale community vaccination centre joins a long list of local pharmacies and GP clinics that are able to offer AstraZeneca to all Victorians aged over 50.

To view the full list of specified underlying health conditions under the Commonwealth’s eligibility criteria, visit https://health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/ covid-19-vaccines/phase-1b.