Happy to get the vaccine

WILSON Lodge residents in Sale were the first in the Central Gippsland Health Network to receive their Pfizer vaccinations on Wednesday, with 45 aged care and disability residents aged between 35 and 94 protected against the COVID-19 virus.

Wednesday’s vaccination of aged care residents is part of a huge drive coordinated by the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit that resulted in some frontline health workers receiving their vaccinations on Tuesday.

The two groups are among the highest risk people, or ‘Phase 1A’ priority group, deemed to have the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Specially trained health workers from the regional COVID-19 vaccination team are travelling from San Remo in the south to Orbost in the east to administer vaccines to aged care residents.

Wilson Lodge resident Marie Milosevic, 94, was happy to get the vaccine and took it all in her stride.

As someone who had experienced civil unrest in her home nation of Bosnia before coming to Australia via Italy, the former Gippsland Grammar cleaner of 33 years couldn’t understand the fuss.

“It’s all good”, she said with a smile when asked how it felt.

Likewise for 88-year-old Hilda Smith, who said she “didn’t even feel it” after receiving the vaccination.

Ms Smith said she had received numerous vaccinations in her lifetime, so another was no problem.

“I’ve been getting vaccinations since the 1930s and 40s, so it’s nothing new to me,” she said.

Waiting in line for her turn, 72-year-old Helen Pastusiak said she was keen to be vaccinated so things could “get back to normal”.

“I miss going to see my friends outside of the lodge and going to the park, so I’m sure the vaccination program will give visitors and residents confidence,” she said.

The vaccination program for other aged care homes, staff and frontline health care workers, both clinical and non-clinical, will continue during the next few weeks.

Sixteen experienced nurses, pharmacists and administration staff have been recruited to support a vaccination outreach program going to towns across Gippsland.

They have undergone training to ensure they are skilled in administering the vaccine.

Gippsland Region Public Health Unit operations manager Annelies Titulaer said this week’s rollout in Wellington Shire, which included aged care facilities in Maffra, Heyfield and Sale, was the culmination of months of logistical planning and recruitment to key roles.

She said the unit was aware there had been some concerns in the community about the vaccine, but said the approved vaccines were safe and that it was about getting the right information out so people could make “informed choices”.

“We are really proud to be part of this program,” she said.

Ms Titulaer said advice and support from management teams of hospitals across the region and indeed more broadly, key agencies in local government areas had bolstered the approach to what is “a huge logistical task”.

The Gippsland Region Public Health Unit has also enlisted infectious diseases physician, Dr Zaal Meher-Homji, as its medical lead during the rollout.

A date has not yet been set for the beginning of the wider community vaccination program.