BUSINESSES across Ballarat are rising to the COVID vaccine challenge by overwhelmingly backing a jab push for their best hope at fully re-opening.
Pressure is now firmly on high levels of government to step up and meet the demand.
To hit the highly-touted 80 per cent full-vaccinated goal before Christmas, Ballarat as a region would need to lift its jab rate to 1500 shots in arm every day, according to Committee for Ballarat. This is about 400 extra jabs each day.
These figures only account for the eligible population, those aged 16-plus, without potential for children aged 12 to 15 to be added.
This comes days after the state government's booking system struggled to cope with opening up Pfizer jabs to 16 to 39-year-olds. Only 9,000 new bookings remained available statewide by Friday morning.
UFS, which leads a Commonwealth-run vaccination hub, was forced to close its system to new Pfizer bookings on Friday afternoon. All existing Pfizer supply has been allocated to reservations locked in until November.
Unlike state-run centres such as at The Mercure, UFS is unable to let under-40s swap their AstraZeneca bookings to Pfizer jabs due to supply constraints.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley on Friday said vaccine hesitancy was not a problem among young Victorians, who had shown "incredible demand".
But supply was an issue.
"...We need more supply if we're going to continue this rate of filling the opportunities as they become available," Minister Foley said.
"We're sure there will be further demands on the supply system and we will be very clear to the Commonwealth that Victoria will take all the vaccines it can lay its hands on. We will need more vaccines to meet the level of demand that we're seeing now and that we will be able to forecast as more groups come in to the system."
We need more supply if we're going to continue this rate of filling the opportunities as they become available.- Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley
Ballarat has been averaging 6,700 jabs each week via its two main hubs - Ballarat Health Services has been delivering more than 1000 jabs per day at The Mercure and UFS has been at capacity, about 180 per day.
BHS is set to expand back to Sunday hours this weekend.
At the existing rate, Committee for Ballarat number crunching estimates this will take almost six months to have 80 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated.
Committee for Ballarat chief Michael Poulton said demand, particularly from under-40s, was undeniably strong for vaccinations but our health services could only deliver from the supplies and resources they available.
Mr Poulton called on the federal government to urgently offer relief, including greater options. This would include the potential for another mass vaccination centre in Ballarat
Very quickly we also need to look at what's the next vaccination station for Ballarat, whether that's a big un-used warehouse or a sports stadium. For example, can we use basketball courts up at Ballarat High?- Committee for Ballarat chief Michael Poulton
"We know supply is coming, particularly with Moderna due in October, but we need more supply coming in days - and every community is calling out for more supply," Mr Poulton said.
"Very quickly we also need to look at what's the next vaccination station for Ballarat, whether that's a big un-used warehouse or a sports stadium. For example, can we use basketball courts up at Ballarat High?
"Then we need to look at how we resource that and staff that."
The UFS COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Dana Street has amply AstraZeneca supply and remains open to bookings of this vaccine to anyone aged 18-plus.
Most UFS pharmacies in the region will also be offering AstraZeneca jabs from September 6. UFS was also confident of expanding pharmacy offerings to Moderna, a similar vaccine to Pfizer, once this arrived in Australia.
UFS chief Lynne McLennan joined the call on the Commonwealth government to increase Pfizer allocations to meet demand in Ballarat. Ms McLennan praised widespread eagerness to protect themselves, their family and community against the deadly coronavirus.
AstraZeneca remains the only vaccine available to Victorians aged 60-plus. UFS' Buninyong pharmacy been open to a steady stream of over-60s receiving AstraZeneca.
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Grampians Public Health Unit operations director Robyn Wilson has put out a call to former nurses and medicos to help boost staffing in vaccine hubs across the region. Ms Wilson said one nurse could make 60 to 70 injections' difference a day.
BHS already relies on a nimble workforce to help meet daily vaccine surges. The hub at the Mercure remains taking walk-ups for aged care and disability support workers this weekend. Walk-ups for over-60s restart on Monday.
Mr Poulton reiterated advice from Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton that the best vaccine is the one you can get right now.
He added every vaccine ensure you were far better off that catching COVID and ending up in hospital intensive care.
Mr Poulton said plenty of people were keen to get vaccines and the least anyone with a booking could do, was to show up and be vaccinated.
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