News / COVID-19

Bid for mass vaccination centre in Brunswick

Moreland lags behind most of Victoria in getting the jab

A woman walks past posters urging people to “Vaccinate for the Mighty V” which plaster an empty shopfront in Sydney Road.

Mark Phillips
Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A MASS vaccination centre at the Brunswick Town Hall is on the drawing board as the rush to vaccinate Australians against COVID-19 gathers pace.

At least one Brunswick medical clinic is in discussions with Moreland Council to help set up vaccination hub in the building, which regularly hosts child and infant immunisation sessions.

The proposal comes as data shows that Moreland trails most of Victoria in both single and double doses of the COVID vaccinations.

By last Sunday, Moreland had a first dose rate of 54.7% of its 156,305 residents aged over 15 , ranking it 72nd out of 79 Victorian local government areas, according to data released by the federal Department of Health.

Moreland is ranked 71st for fully vaccinated residents over 15, with 32.9% having both jabs. This compares with a statewide full vaccination rate of 37.8% and a national rate of 38.4% by last Sunday..

Over the past week, 9847 Moreland residents had their first jab, and an additional 5783 became fully vaccinated.

The municipality is 304th out of 412 LGAs Australia-wide for a single dose and 300th for both doses.

The City of Darebin, which borders Moreland on its eastern side, was slightly better for fully vaccinated residents at 33.4%. Southern neighbour the City of Yarra was markedly better with 59.4% having had one jab and 37.3% being fully vaccinated.

Moreland has the ninth largest population of any municipality in Victoria, and the official data shows that vaccination rates are generally lower in areas with large populations. The municipality also has a relatively young population so many residents have not been eligible for vaccines until recently.

Moreland Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan said the priority to date had been to support the most vulnerable sections of the community to get vaccinated.

The council has teamed up with Merri Health and DPV Health to open a vaccination hub in a Uniting Church hall adjacent to the Coburg shopping centre. It delivered 2480 AstraZeneca doses in July and last month began administering second doses.

The two health organisations have also run a mobile vaccination clinic at the high-rise public housing estate in Barkly Street in Brunswick.

“We strongly encourage all people who live, work and play in Moreland to get vaccinated so we can sooner return to enjoying our vibrant city, the way it should be,” Cr Carli Hannan said.

“We’ve been working hard to support our most vulnerable communities to get vaccinated in the first instance.

“Some of this work includes ramping up educating and engagement with our community around vaccinations, and working with Merri Health and DPV to support turnouts of those eligible for AstraZeneca at the Coburg vaccination hub.

“Morelanders are showing a willingness to get vaccinated. We’ve seen good numbers so far and efforts will continue to increase. Our most populous age groups are 20-40 so now these age groups are eligible, we expect to see a big spike in Moreland’s overall rates in the coming weeks.”

The low vaccination rate is a concern as more apartment buildings in Brunswick become exposure sites in the growing COVID outbreak that has led to Melbourne’s sixth lockdown.

On Wednesday there were seven separate current exposure sites in Brunswick, including an apartment building at 7 Wilson Avenue which is listed as a Tier 1 exposure between 7am and 4pm on September 2. The GEOX apartment building in Breese Street was the site of multiple exposures between August 25 and 30, and apartment complexes in Moreland Road and Barkly Street are also listed.

The Brunswick area had 24 active COVID cases, including one new case, on Wednesday.

Despite the official figures showing Moreland is lagging behind in vaccinations, Dr Shea Wilcox from the Inner North Medical Clinic said his clinic could barely keep up with demand and was providing an average of 2000 jabs a week. Of those, 300 are of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr Shea Wilcox
Dr Shea Wilcox at the entrance to his clinic’s vaccination centre in Lygon Street. “I don’t think it’s sunk into Australians’ psyche yet that we will never get back to COVID zero and coronavirus is not going away,” he says. “It’s here for ever and the only way we will return to a more normal way of life is through high vaccination rates.”

Earlier this year, the clinic set up a vaccination centre in an unoccupied shop front next door, and Dr Wilcox said vaccine supplies had improved significantly since early problems.

He said the big change had been the federal government’s decision to make the AstraZeneca vaccine available to all age groups and the Inner North Medical Centre alone has delivered 10,500 vaccine doses since mid-April

“I can’t speak for all of Moreland, but our vaccine bookings have been fully booked out for a long time now and we’ve had the maximum uptake of what we can deliver,” he said.

“At the moment we’re doing about 2000 a week which is awesome.”

Dr Wilcox has encountered very little vaccine hesitancy and most patients just wanted to be vaccinated and weren’t fussy about whether it was AstraZeneca or Pfizer. He said the age group with the most questions and concerns were aged between 40 and 50 and perhaps more vulnerable to misinformation on social media about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The next step will be to open more large vaccination hubs in Moreland. The closest state-operated vaccination centre is at the Melbourne Museum in Carlton.

Dr Wilcox said general practice clinics were in discussion with the council and the state government about using the council buildings as mass vaccination centres, including the Brunswick Town Hall in Sydney Road. The Town Hall served as a pop up testing centre last weekend.

The council is understood to be keen and talking to a range of health providers but details are yet to be worked out about the delivery of vaccine supplies.

“The next cohort of 12 and older will be a big wave of people getting vaccinated and the [state] government hubs will be really full,” Dr Wilcox said.

“All options are on the table but it’s unclear where the doses will come from.”