Dargo’s vaccination milestone

THE remote township of Dargo, in Wellington Shire’s north, celebrated an impressive milestone last week — more than 95 per cent of its residents aged over 16 have now been first dosed vaccinated against COVID-19, and 91.8 per cent second dosed.
The figures are based on the Dargo Bush Nursing Centre’s estimates there is a population of about 146 permanent and permanent part time residents.
Registered nurse and midwife Megan Lee said it wasn’t an official number, “but we know our population pretty well”.
“Currently our population includes a newborn (six days old) right up to residents in their 80s,” she said.
Dargo Bush Nursing Centre, which services the community of Dargo, has four nurses — nurse manager Sarah Carr, Kim Sturgeon, Warren Howden and Ms Lee, as well as Sue Neale, the centre’s administration officer.
The centre has been busy during the past few months running outreach vaccination clinics, with the support of Latrobe Regional Hospital, Royal Flying Doctors and Gippsland Region Public Health Unit, which had travelled to Dargo to supply the vaccines.
Ms Lee, a registered nurse and midwife, said this had made a huge difference for the residents of the area, “particularly given they are a vulnerable population with majority over 65 years”.
“Not having to travel to be vaccinated, particularly during lockdown, has been fantastic,” she added.
Ms Lee said the nursing centre had taken a more passive approach to vaccination, promoting access to the vaccine through the clinic’s Facebook page.
“We have made the time to listen to those who are hesitant and to remain neutral and non-judgemental as they navigate their own beliefs and feelings around vaccination,” she said.
“We also offer to connect them with some wonderfully knowledgeable and qualified health professionals available to answer questions in regards to concerns residents may have had about having the vaccination.
“We have made sure to offer an appointment, by reaching out to people and just asking them if they are ready to book in.”
Ms Lee said the community was small but was still aiming to bring itself to its highest achievable vaccination rate, to protect those who remained unvaccinated in the community.
“There has been some hesitancy, but for the most part the community has weighed up their options and decided that vaccination is important for their health and for others,” she said.
“Our permanent community is well aware that we are a tourist mecca over the peak seasons, both over summer and winter.
“With often around 5000 people coming through the town during these times, we are exposed to a large number of visitors.
“Our community are proud to be protecting themselves, and those coming to the area to visit.”
Ms Lee said since intrastate travel reopened last weekend, the town’s residents had seen a marked increase in people coming to the area.
“It’s wonderful to see them back, both from the perspective of their ability to come back and enjoy the High Country, and to boost tourism back to our small businesses within the town,” she said.