More vaccines will soon be available right across Ballarat and beyond, as supplies of Moderna begin flowing to pharmacies from Beaufort to Ballan.
The push comes as another eight cases were confirmed in Ballarat on Thursday, and regional case numbers continue to rise.
UFS pharmacies, as well as several independent and chain pharmacies in Sebastopol, Creswick, Black Hill, Wendouree, and Lucas are already offering Moderna vaccine appointments.
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- Gold - Moderna
- Blue - Pfizer
- Green - AstraZeneca
Other sites, including the Ballarat Health Services' state-run vaccination hub at the Mercure Hotel, are continuing to offer Pfizer appointments.
Every vaccination site across the district is also offering AstraZeneca.
Just over 88 per cent of residents in the City of Ballarat have had their first vaccination and 57.4 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to Monday's numbers - Ballarat Health Services' infectious diseases specialist Dr Aaron Bloch said this was "terrific", but getting above 90 per cent or higher should still be the target.
"It's so important, particularly as we get to our last 10-15 per cent, to pull out all the stops and make it really easy to get your vaccine," he said.
"We want it to be as easy as going to a milk bar to get an ice cream."
That means accessibility is going to be increasingly important - The Courier's doing its bit by helping put together an interactive map of vaccination sites, available online.
"It's so helpful having this fantastic vaccine available at all these points of access that are easy for the community, like pharmacies, because we critically need to get those last few per cent of people vaccinated," Dr Bloch said.
"For everyone in the community, if you know someone who's a little bit hesitant or hasn't quite found the time to make an appointment, I'd urge you to contact that person and have a chat, see if you can help facilitate their appointment, or make it for them, because you might just have saved their life.
"Every person we vaccinate is a person we potentially prevent getting very sick and attending hospital, and going into the ICU, and every time we vaccinate someone, we potentially prevent transmission and protect our community, and particularly keep those vulnerable members of the community safe."
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Moderna is considered a vaccine as safe as Pfizer, and potentially more effective for longer, Dr Bloch said.
"It's the new kid on the block in Australia, and I think there's a bit of wariness because people haven't got to know Moderna or heard about it, but from our experience, and all the medical experience and literature overseas, it is a fantastic vaccine," he said.
"It's quite similar to the Pfizer vaccine, almost identical in its design, it's also an mRNA vaccine surrounded by a lipid nanoparticle layer.
"It's a terrific option, it's safe, it's effective, and you can get two doses within four weeks to get full protection."
Once the state hits 70 per cent fully vaccinated, more restrictions will end, with more freedoms at the 80 per cent - these targets are not far away, and there are fears case numbers will rise.
Dr Bloch said vaccination will help the community and health workers.
"We've all had a really tough time over the past 18 months, it's been a real grind and slog living through this once-in-a-100-year pandemic, and for us in the hospital system now, we're probably approaching the hardest part," he said.
"We've all been exhausted for the past 18 months, and now we're likely to see a surge of patients across Victoria.
"We're preparing furiously for that, and we'll be ready to treat them, but it's going to be a real challenge and there's no getting around that, but seeing the community helping us by getting vaccinated is just terrific to see - every person who gets vaccinated is more or less a person who will not be coming into the hospital and getting sick.
"It's great for them, it's great for us, and it's also great for all the people who need the hospital for routine care that's not COVID-related."
The Committee for Ballarat has pulled together resources to help create The Courier's map, and chief executive Michael Poulton said every piece of information that gets vaccines out there is important.
"As first doses of vaccination are accelerating to 90 per cent, it's an extraordinary effort, and importantly we now need to convert those first doses to second doses, and get those who haven't, for whatever reason, to that first dose stage," he said.
"The map's a single source for residents to access where they can roll up their sleeves and get the jab.
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"We were always told come October and beyond, supply would not be the issue as it was some months ago, and the Moderna and the additional Pfizer has certainly meant supply is not the reason someone wouldn't get vaccinated now.
"There is supply, we have great access to outlets across the city, there is significant availability."
While some vaccination sites offer walk-up jabs, it's best to check online first, or phone ahead.
It's expected Moderna will be available through the BHS Mercure vaccination hub sometime next week, as well as more appointments will be available through UFS sites.
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