Valley turns out in force for vaccinations

Waiting their turn: Locals braved the cold morning on Friday to get in line at the Traralgon COVID-19 vaccination clinic. photograph zac standish

THE Latrobe Valley has responded in force to Acting Premier James Merlino’s message to get vaccinated with the community response sending local clinics into overdrive.
Following the announcement of a statewide seven-day circuit breaker lockdown, long lines could be seen outside the Traralgon Racecourse vaccination clinic within hours of the news.
Gippsland Public Health Unit operations manager Annelies Titulaer said the demand for the vaccine since the announcement has been overwhelming.
“In alignment with the state we have had an influx of interest in terms of accessing the vaccine locally,” Ms Titulaer said.
“We have seen our demand double within a 24-hour period in response to the announcements and over 400 people come through the doors here at the Traralgon clinic alone, so I would say it has been a really good community response.”
The impact of this increased demand was seen from Thursday afternoon, the day of Mr Merlino’s announcement.
“It is important for us to make sure that it is a safe and effective delivery of the vaccine at all times and we weren’t able to cater for that increased demand yesterday,” she said.
“I do appreciate that there was difficulty in making the bookings on Thursday but that has been rectified now and we have opened up additional booking platforms and are reviewing our workforce and hours to open for a more extended period over the following week.”
Ms Titulaer described how the clinic is operating and the people eligible to come down and receive an injection.
“We encourage everyone to book through the state hotline to be guaranteed an appointment and access to the vaccine,” she said.
“We do accept walk-ins for the AstraZeneca vaccine so anyone that is 50 and over can access it via a walk in, while the Pfizer vaccine is available to people aged between 40 and 49 or under 50 with phase 1a or 1b eligibility can access it via an appointment.”
She also gave an update on the wait times people will likely experience if they were to come down for a walk-in appointment.
“It is probably sitting at around an hour now we have got everything up and going, it was a bit longer yesterday with the increased demand which is why we needed to stop walk-ins at a particular time,” she said.
“People can receive live updates of wait times online as of now, so they can have a good idea before they get in their cars and come on down.”
For Yarram couple Robert and Elizabeth Metheringham, they had been waiting more than a week to get their appointment at the Traralgon Racecourse, the closest available clinic for them to attend.
“We went to book a week and a half ago and this was the first appointment they had available for us,” Mr Metheringham said.
“We have had to come over from Yarram and this is the closest one they have sent us too, and with health problems for the both of us it is certainly a bit of a hassle, we should have been able to have it in our local area.”
For eligible people unsure as to whether they should get the COVID-19 vaccine, Ms Titulaer had this message.
“Use evidence based resources, go to the department website and look at the advice from the experts to make sure you make the right decisions yourself,” she said.
“It has been important since the start of the roll out that anyone who is eligible and willing comes and accesses the vaccine, it keeps them safe, their family safe and the community safe.”