MORE than one in five Ballarat residents are fully vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus, according to new federal government figures.
But Ballarat, at 23.5 per cent fully covered, is lagging behind neighbouring regions Geelong (25.9 per cent) and Bendigo (25.1 per cent) for residents aged 15-plus.
City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney hoped this would act as a spur for more people to roll up their sleeves when they got the chance.
Cr Moloney encouraged anyone eligible to get their first jab under way before more age groups could join the race.
"Even just for peace of mind in knowing it's a shield and can provide a level of comfort if the virus does take off again," Cr Moloney said.
"There's a job for us all to help promote the message and offer hope for a more normal existence...
"There's no real available vaccines yet for the under-40s, who are probably the most exposed and need to work often not from home.
"As access improves, we have a real opportunity to present ourselves as a community leading the way."
When it comes to COVID-19 vaccination first jabs, that title goes to Bendigo.
Data shows Bendigo tops the nation with 52.6 per cent of residents aged 15-plus having received their first dose.
Ballarat is third in Victoria for first doses at 48.1 per cent, ahead of all metropolitan areas but still behind Geelong (51.4 per cent).
This is a different picture to state government figures released on Monday.
The state government figures for the Grampians region, which runs from Ballarat to the state's western border, showed 21 per cent of residents had their first dose, as reported in The Courier on Tuesday.
New federal government figures focus on the wider Ballarat region, including Beaufort, Maryborough, Dunolly and Ballan, and take in vaccines delivered under the state and Commonwealth-run roll-outs.
Commonwealth-run vaccination programs in Ballarat cast a wider net by using data from general practitioners, pharmacists and the UFS vaccination hub in Dana Street.
Cr Moloney said more detailed data, such as age-based breakdowns, would help to best guide the City's targeted support response in promoting vaccinations.
This echoes Swinburne epidemiologist Richard Osborne and Committee for Ballarat's Michael Poulton, who called for a focus on community leadership to boost vaccination rates in The Courier on Tuesday.
Cr Moloney confirmed the City had begun talks with some sporting clubs in ways to work together in encouraging more people to take up the vaccine, such as club members, players and general supporters. He said in turn this would help better protect games in the long run to keep taking to the field.
I'd love to point to Ballarat as a city leading the way in vaccinations but the only way this will happen is if anyone shows community leadership.City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney
"I'd love to point to Ballarat as a city leading the way in vaccinations but the only way this will happen is if anyone shows community leadership," Cr Moloney said.
"We need sports leaders, business leaders, arts leaders, religious leaders and multicultural leaders to strongly encourage their communities to get behind this and make as much difference as possible."
From a City of Ballarat perspective, Cr Moloney said council would continue to stick to state government messaging to ensure as consistent a message as possible.
But, Cr Moloney also said the City could work closely with community groups and health leaders on improving access to vaccinations, particularly as more people became eligible for the jab.
Key advocacy body Committee for Ballarat has also started to step up its call to arms on work places, community organisations and families to encourage greater vaccinations.
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Committee has been working closely with Ballarat's major health organisations, including Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat Community Health, UFS and the Western Victoria Primary Health Network, to determine the best rallying messages. All four health organisations play a role in the existing vaccination roll-out across the region.
Committee for Ballarat chief Michael Poulton has said the focus needs to shift on promoting vaccine availability to offer greater hope, inspiration and joy in doing the right thing for the community and finding a way out of the pandemic together for region.
To drive this, Mr Poulton said a wide cross-section of strong community leadership was needed.
Swinburne University's world-leading epidemiologist Richard Osborne, who specialises in health literacy, told The Courier more detailed data was important but the key to Ballarat "shining" in vaccinations was about engagement.
He too, said this had to come from community leaders setting the tone and rolling up their sleeves by example.
Ballarat Health Services primary and community care executive director Craig Wilding reiterated COVID-19 vaccines were incredibly important for protecting ourselves and our community from future impacts of COVID-19.
To check COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, visit https://covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au/eligibility. For further, visit bhs.org.au/vaccine.
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