Ballarat's vaccination rate has leapt forward, with more than 80 per cent of residents aged over 16 years now with at least one jab.
According to numbers released by the federal government on Monday afternoon, 83.6 per cent of Ballarat's population is now single-jabbed, with 53.5 per cent fully vaccinated.
For people getting their first jab, it's an increase of 6.8 per cent in just seven days, and an increase of 12.6 per cent in a fortnight.
Those who have been held up by long waits also have a new opportunity to get in now and join 'the race' to 80 percnet full vaccination
Ballarat Health Services' has announced it still has 210 vacancies for Pfizer vaccinations at the Mercure available for today (Tuesday). Get in quick.
BHS said Bookings were essential and could be made via the online portal or by phoning 1800 675 398.
SEE THE GRAPH HERE
The numbers are well ahead of the entire state, which at time of writing is at 77.9 for the first jab and 47.7 for full vaccination.
Around Ballarat, Hepburn Shire is at 84.8 per cent single jab and 60.7 per cent double jab, up from 80.2 and 57.2 last week, and Moorabool is at 83.8 per cent single jab and 48.4 per cent double jab, up from 77.7 and 44.4 last week.
Golden Plains is at 83.5 per cent single jab and 50.8 per cent double jab, up from 75.7 and 47.6 last week, while Pyrenees Shire is at 80.8 per cent single jab and 55.4 per cent double jab, up from 76.3 and 52.3 last week.
SEE A PROJECTION OF BALLARAT'S VACCINATION RATE
Greater Bendigo, by comparison, is at 83.8 per cent single jab, and 56.1 per cent double jab.
It's welcome news, after Ballarat was hit with its eighth lockdown earlier this month, and regional Victoria rockets towards higher jab targets promising more freedoms.
The promised vaccine passport trial is set to begin on October 11, though Ballarat will miss out.
HOW ARE WE GOING COMPARED TO OTHER REGIONAL CITIES?
The trial is a big part of the national plan for reopening the economy, which is based on total vaccination rates - businesses will need to be able to provide a safe environment not just for patrons but also for workers when states hit the 70 and 80 per cent jab targets.
The trial will involve 20 businesses or events across six local government areas, including Pyrenees Shire, Bendigo, Warrnambool, East Gippsland, Buloke, and Bass Coast.
According to the state government, it is anticipated the trials will cover hospitality, hairdressing, beauty services and tourism businesses, and events such as race meetings, community celebrations and concerts.
People would need to prove their double-vaccination status using apps - currently, the Medicare Express Plus app provides an easy-to-find animated digital certificate, but the state government is working with the Commonwealth to incorporate it into the existing Service Victoria QR code check-in app.
But there are no details on what will change for businesses that will participate in the trial, according to Australian Hotels Association Victoria president Dave Canny.
"Our understanding is it's very grey at the moment, it's an announcement with no detail," he said.
"If it's the (80 per cent vaccine target) model, let venues that want to be the trial be part of it, but it doesn't appear that'll be the case, it's a very limited number of venues."
He also attacked the density limits on licensed venues, which are set to remain at 10 people inside until the 70 per cent double-jabbed target is hit, and will then expand to 30 double-jabbed people inside.
That won't be until late October, according to the state's roadmap, and Mr Canny said there needed to be concessions.
"If you're going to be part of the trial, you need the capacity to be able to trade," he said.
"If the rules are ridiculous, then maybe they won't want to be part of it.
"We're ready to roll - if it's going to be a part of the reopening, capacity to trade has got to be part of the deal."
City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said it was disappointing Ballarat wasn't invited to participate, but acknowledged the city's recent outbreak would have played a part.
"It would have been great to be part of the trial, on one hand it's disappointing we don't have businesses, but hopefully it's something that comes around," he said.
"The best benefit would have come from the association with being a city willing to pilot a program, and to have that local intel - if we had a few businesses here that could figure out what worked and what didn't, that'd be good."
Instead, the city should be focused on hitting the vaccination targets, and preparing for an influx of tourists in the summer.
"Now we have five weeks to get ready for Melburnians to get back to the city when we become one state again - that brings with it a lot of risks and opportunities," he said.
"If we're not using those weeks wisely, we're doing ourselves and our businesses a disservice.
"Events will be ready to go like Foto Biennale and 1000 Doors, and we're lining up a range of local performing artists to have a lot on our streets as well."
In Pyrenees Shire, the vaccine passport trial was welcomed - council's chief executive Jim Nolan said it would be an opportunity for a business or event to "get a leg up" early.
"One of the aspects of it relates to events, and they're an important part of getting the Victorian economy back up and running, they're things Pyrenees in the past has been pretty proud of," he said.
"It might be possible for an event like an Avoca race meeting to be a trial site - that would all depend on the racing club and the industry.
"It's early days and it might change, but the intent is to see how these systems might work in a future setting.
"We'd be hopeful the outcome of this trial will allow events to get back up and running, so people can enjoy them later in the year and next year."
IN THE NEWS
It's also promising news for wineries in the famous wine region - Amherst Wines' Luke Jones said he was hoping for another bounce in the summer after a difficult year.
"When we did open up after the lockdowns at the end of last year, November and December were some of the busiest months we'd ever had, but these latest lockdowns have been quite challenging for everybody," he said.
"I don't know if people are skeptical about passports, but I know in the regions, and certainly in Ballarat, we're used to checking people's ID, I don't see it as that difficult a thing, and anything that gets people open quicker is without a doubt a good thing."
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