By Colin MacGillivray
KILMORE District Health and Plenty Ranges Arts and Convention Centre at South Morang will serve as two of nine state-run centres to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines as the State Government tries to boost vaccination rates.
On Sunday the government announced both clinics would be able to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone aged 18 to 39 who provides informed consent, while access to the Pfizer vaccine will be provided to people ages 12 to 15 with specified medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Kilmore District Health chief executive David Naughton said the health service’s vaccination clinic had already seen an increase in demand for vaccines following the announcement but stressed that people would still need to book an appointment.
“We’ve had an increase [in interest] already and we expect that to continue,” he said.
“It’s fantastic and it’s good news for locals, but our clinic remains appointment only because we can’t cope with huge numbers of people just rocking up – it’s too small.
“We’ve got plans this week to deliver around 1100 vaccinations, so we’re really hitting our straps now. At this stage people have to book several weeks in advance.”
Mr Naughton said Kilmore District Health was working to expand clinic hours to increase its weekly capacity.
“We’re operating seven days a week now. We’ve got clinics operating Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday evenings, and we’re also doing the clinic for young people on Friday mornings so we can keep them a bit separate,” he said.
“We’re looking at how we can continue to expand the clinic. That might mean we run a few more hours every day, but these things take a little bit of time to organise. We have to make sure we have the right staff rostered on. It’s not just clinical staff, it’s admin staff and it’s cleaning staff.
“Being able to do Saturday and Sunday clinics has been really popular with the community, which has been great.”
Mr Naughton said Kilmore being selected as one of only nine state-run centres to provide expanded access to vaccines was a reflection of the hard work of its staff.
“I think it shows we have the skills and the experience to manage these changes and deliver a safe, efficient service quickly,” he said.
“I’d like to thank the staff for flexing and being able to manage these changes as they come through and continuing to provide the good grace and good humour they do when they’re at the clinic working.
“We had some lovely Facebook posts from people over the weekend saying just that.”
People can call Kilmore District Health on 5734 2127 between 8.30am and 4.30pm or the State Government’s Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 to make a booking. People can also book online via portal.cvms.vic.gov.au.