While authorities continue to experience vaccination challenges in Melbourne, the Ballarat multicultural community has come out in force to fight the pandemic. This commitment from migrants has contributed to the leap in Ballarat's vaccination rates, with statistics at week's start revealing 83.6% of the population has had one dose and 53.5% is fully vaccinated.
With three successful vaccination hubs at the Ballarat Welcome Centre having been run, a fourth pop-up service was organised by the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council for Monday. Substantial demand was evident. New African communities, such as South Sudanese and Togolese people, took advantage of the service. Many young families attended.
South Sudanese mother Rebecca Bol, a resident of Ballarat for 14 years, was keen to embrace the opportunity. Ms Bol, herself vaccinated four weeks ago, has five children. Her eldest child, aged 20, is already vaccinated. Her 12 year-old son was vaccinated on Monday.
"(The vaccination is) the only way we have of preventing COVID-19," Ms Bol said. "I'm sick of COVID-19. I can't see my friends. I can't go anywhere."
Ms Bol is concerned about the illness and her children's education. She is relieved her family members have received their needles.
"(I was) worried he's not vaccinated," she said, speaking about her son. "Now, I'm happy. (Home schooling) was horrible. I'm not good at teaching! I need them to go to school."
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According to Ms Bol, accurate information is essential in increasing awareness.
"People need basic information. They need someone who knows what the vaccination really is," Ms Bol said. "If they sit there themselves and no one talks about vaccination, nobody will turn up."
Ann Foley, BRMC executive officer, is conscious of trepidation felt by some groups, although she is focused on tackling this.
"We've been aware that there has been some concern, but there's been a lot of good information going out to people about the protective value of the vaccination," Ms Foley said. "It's becoming more clear how deadly the disease is and how it's unvaccinated people who are in the intensive care units in hospitals. That's starting to filter through."
Nyepuot Riek, a leader amongst the South Sudanese people, has lived in Ballarat for 16 years. Ms Riek and her two sons went through the process on Monday, although she was initially reluctant.
"The doubt was on my mind because I saw the news," Ms Riek said. "They said, 'If you're vaccinated, you still wear a mask and you still get disease'. It (did) not really (seem) good to me to do it."
However, Ms Riek's perspective changed upon receiving clearer information. As time progressed, she was convinced to get vaccinated. She was also keen for her children to be.
"I need them to do it because it's good for protecting people," Ms Riek said.
Ms Riek is active in informing Ballarat's African community about how to address the pandemic, getting word out through social media platforms.
Ms Foley was thrilled with the 104 doses injected on Monday and she believes the hubs, involving an accessible booking system, are having an impact.
"We're booked out," Ms Foley said on Monday. "People from newer communities find it easier to ring and get a bit of assistance. We've done that again."
Ms Foley is also intent on expanding the client base.
"The availability of the vaccine to younger people is another reason we are keen to encourage people to get vaccinated," she said. "We can see the increase in cases in young people. Many multicultural families have young children and, as they become more comfortable with the idea and see community leaders getting vaccinated, they're bringing their teenagers and young adults in."
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