News /COVID-19

Brunswick slips behind state for COVID vaccinations

Despite pop-up mass vaccination centres, less than 70% or residents are fully vaccinated against the virus

Nurse Mahala Knight delivers an AstraZeneca vaccination to Kylie Williams on Saturday morning.

Mark Phillips
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

COVID-19 vaccination rates in Brunswick and Moreland are slipping further behind the rest of Victoria, despite a massive effort which has vaccinated tens of thousands of residents in recent weeks.

At the start of this week, the fully vaccinated rate in Brunswick-Coburg of 68.2% ranked 64th out of 67 areas in Victoria being monitored by the federal Department of Health. In a reversal of the situation just weeks ago, the less populous northern part of the City of Moreland now has higher rates of single dose and fully vaccinated residents than the south of the city.

As recently as the start of October, Brunswick-Coburg was 53rd in the state for fully vaccinated residents aged over 15. It has since been overtaken by highly-publicised COVID hotspots like the City of Wyndham.

When weekly statistics were released on Monday, the entire City of Moreland was 75th out of 79 municipalities in Victoria with 68.6% fully vaccinated compared to 75.9% for all of Victoria.

This is despite 16,685 Moreland residents receiving their second COVID jab since the start of the month as the state government, council and health organisations have poured resources into the area including pop-up vaccination centres and mobile clinics.

“Through intensive collaboration with the Department of Health and partnerships with local health providers, we have significantly ramped up local access to vaccinations across our municipality to help lift the local average,” said Moreland Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan.

So far this month, Moreland Council has partnered with local health providers to host eight vaccination pop-up hubs across the municipality, including Coburg High, Brunswick Secondary, Brunswick Town Hall and Pascoe Vale Girls College.

The council has provided venues, immunisation staff, on site set up, traffic management, cleaning, waste management and culturally-appropriate promotions and communications.

It has identified barriers to accessing vaccinations including lack of access and transport to vaccination clinics, limited availability of in-language vaccination information, difficulty in booking a vaccination, and limited locally available vaccination appointments.

At current rates, Brunswick-Coburg will not reach the target of 80% fully vaccinated until the second week in November, almost a fortnight after the projected date when Victoria will pass the milestone which will allow the restoration of more freedoms. About 10,200 residents must receive their second dose to get there.

On Saturday and Sunday, 290 doses were provided at the Brunswick Town Hall in a joint operation by the City of Moreland and Inner North Medical Clinic.

The two-day pop-up hub follows successful temporary mass vaccination centres at high schools in Brunswick and Coburg over recent weeks, but the numbers were well done on those ventures which delivered close to 1000 doses each.

Dr Shea Wilcox of the Inner North Medical Clinic, which has operated the vaccination hubs at the town hall and Coburg High School over the past two weekends, said Brunswick’s relatively higher proportion of younger people was one of the reasons why the area had a slower vaccine uptake to others. About one-third of Moreland residents are aged under 24, which meant they were unable to get a first vaccination dose until early September.

Hundreds of flyers like this one have been placed in Brunswick letterboxes in recent weeks.

“No young people were able to get vaccinated at first because they didn’t fit into the most at risk categories,” he said. “Some groups were also harder to reach or more hesitant. Some people were sitting on the fence until their communities began to be over-represented in the case numbers and that changed their minds.”

The introduction of vaccination mandates for many workplaces, including schools and construction sites, along with hospitality venues, has had a positive impact of lifting vaccination rates.

Weekend pop-up centres, which take vaccinations into the community at times that are more convenient for people working Monday to Friday, have also helped.

Doctors Shea (left) and Kyle Wilcox at the entrance to the Brunswick Town Hall pop-up vaccination centre.

About three-in-five vaccinations delivered on the weekend at the town hall were walk-ins, with the Pfizer vaccine outnumbering AstraZeneca by 10-to-one.

Mandarin and Arabic speaking translators were also present to assist people who do not speak English as a first language.

“The idea is to make getting vaccinated now no barrier at all,” Dr Wilcox said.

“You can just walk in on your way to Barkly Square and there’s no waiting [to get vaccinated]. It’s slick and practised now and all of our staff are at the top of their games.”

School teacher Kylie Williams of Brunswick East received her second AstraZeneca jab at the town hall on Saturday.

Teachers have until the end of November to be fully vaccinated under a government mandate, but Ms Williams said that was not the main motivation for herself.

“I just want to be out living my normal life again,” she said.

Dr Wilcox expects the demand for vaccinations to ease by the middle of November when it is likely close to 90% of all Victorians aged over 12 will be fully vaccinated.

At that stage, the focus will move to delivering a third dose to the most vulnerable members of the community.  

The next phase of the council’s outreach will target communities where vaccine misinformation and hesitancy still remain.   

Fresh approaches will include offering in-home vaccination for people aged over 65, living with a disability or large family groups.

The council will also be working closely with SistaHub to run local vaccination hubs in culturally sensitive settings for Muslim women, and continuing to provide more local, conveniently located community pop-ups.

This story was updated on October 28 with further information from Moreland Council.