MEDICAL leaders at Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative are calling on the community to make COVID-19 vaccinations a matter of urgency, given unfolding outbreak situation in New South Wales.
From next week BADAC will open Pfizer jabs to the region's Indigenous children aged 12-plus under a continued push to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.This comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday the Pfizer vaccine would also be available to all Australians aged 16 to 39 from next month.
BADAC medical practice manager Paul Kochskamper said it took time to build up immunity to the virus. Mr Kochskamper warned while more vaccine doses were on the way, there might not be the appointments available soon enough to protect the community should there be a surge in COVID-19.
This echos concerns from City of Ballarat councillor and emergency doctor Mark Harris, who this week told The Courier it was "doubly" vital for regional areas to be vaccinated in a bid to ease potential pressure a surge would place on all health services.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples are at greater risk of developing a serious illness from COVID-19 if aged 50-plus or with chronic health conditions, according to Victoria's health department. Younger Indigenous people have been included in the roll-out earlier in a bid to prevent putting elders and older family members at risk.
Mr Kochskamper said participating in the vaccination roll-out provided the Indigenous community with a level of comfort, based upon confidence and trust.
don't use existing health factors as an excuse - in fact it's more important for you to have the COVID-19 vaccination.Paul Kochskamper, BADAC practice manager
"(We want people to know) don't use existing health factors as an excuse - in fact it's more important for you to have the COVID-19 vaccination," he said. "Don't listen to the advice from social media, we're resourcing the best medical advice, which in turn BADAC's clinical team will communicate to you."
BADAC's COVID-19 vaccination clinic runs each Thursday. The team has delivered 242 first doses with 159 people fully vaccinated.
BADAC general practitioner Bec Quake said elders in the Ballarat region had been easier to vaccinate because many were popping in to the clinic for health appointments and information. This had allowed for medical staff to better reach them with information.
Dr Quake said it was important other age groups also now rolled up their sleeves.
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BADAC has been producing a general vaccine explainer about the vaccine and its youth team has been creating a song to better emphasise the importance of jabs for younger Indigenous people.
Anyone vaccinated gets a wrist band with the words "immunity, community, unity; together we will be immune" in what BADAC staff hoped was a conversation starter about the vaccine.
Dr Quake and Mr Kochskamper said they were incredibly proud of Ballarat's Indigenous community in sticking to general health guidelines throughout the pandemic.
BADAC's medical team has been able to continue GP consults, maternal child health home visits and care plans with some telehealth options.
COVID-19 testing has been scaled back at BADAC since last year's lockdowns. Tests were generally limited to patients with complex health conditions at the discretion of their GP.
Anyone with queries can call BADAC's medical clinic on 5331 5344. Indigenous people from other GP clinics are able to get immunised at BADAC.
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