Students, parents and teachers have welcomed plans and the certainty provided after details of priority COVID vaccinations for senior students sitting year 12 exams were outlined on Friday.
From Monday, year 12 students will be given priority booking access at state-run clinics, as will their teachers and examiners, with vaccinations to be rolled out between September 7 and 17 to reach the government's goal of all students sitting year 12 exams receiving at least one vaccine jab before exams begin on October 5.
The Department of Education held a webinar for teachers, parents and students late Friday to outline the details.
Confirmation of the priority access came as a relief to mum Kerri-Anne Batchelor who spent countless hours trying to get a vaccination appointment for her year 12 son Luke after the priority vaccinations for year 12s were first announced almost two weeks ago.
A vaccination blitz will begin on Tuesday 7 September for final year school students, their teachers and VCE exam supervisors and assessors, who will have access to priority timeslots to attend their #COVIDVaccine centre appointment – or book both doses via a dedicated hotline. pic.twitter.com/D7gXMUcpo8— DET (@DETVic) September 2, 2021
Details of how they could access the priority vaccination blitz were only formally announced on Friday.
"It was a premature announcement that put a lot of stress on year 12s and their families. We are all in a state of uncertainty, but I think he (Premier Daniel Andrews) added to the anxiety of all students in year 12."
The earliest appointment she could get for her son was in Ararat on September 28, so news that priority appointments would be available locally in the next two weeks was welcome.
"The detail is long overdue," Ms Batchelor said. "They could have saved some of that psychological and emotional harm by getting their ducks in a row first before announcing it ... it has just added to the uncertainty."
The priority access is expected to cover 60,000 to 70,000 Year 12 and 11 students sitting unit 3/4 exams, as well as their teachers and examiners.
Mount Clear College principal Lynita Taylor said students were concerned about their health and most were keen to get vaccinated before exams.
"We've made it very clear it's a family decision and we will support whatever decision they make, but the majority are very keen to look after their health and go ahead with it." she said.
"I remember last year with our year 12s, when we were staying off site and talking about coming back, they were very concerned about their own health and it's the same situation here."
She said most students were coping well with the remote learning and support was always on hand for those struggling.
"We are just letting our kids know that whatever happens they will get where they want to go. Universities are very understanding, there's pathways, and the whole special consideration process which worked well last year has been confirmed which has come as a relief to them."
They even managed to hold the school's year 11 and year 12 formals before the latest lockdown began. "They've had a pretty average year so we made sure they had something enjoyable," she said.
Ballarat Grammar headmaster Adam Heath also welcomed the priority vaccination blitz.
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"Following last week's ATAGI advice that the Pfizer vaccination is recommended for children aged 12 and over, and Victorian Government notification today that priority vaccination appointments would be available for all students studying a Unit 3 and 4 subject, we would encourage Year 12 and Year 11 students and their families who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so as soon as they are able," he said.
"This will be a confident step forward for our community for the upcoming exam period and beyond."
Premier Daniel Andrews also announced vaccination hubs would be set up at schools but it was unclear whether that would include Ballarat.
A BHS spokesperson said the Grampians Public Health Unit was working through plans for vaccinating year 12 students.
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