Convention Centre inundated with vaccine bookings
By Katie Johnson and Brendan Rees
Queues were wrapped around the building at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre after the government announced the Pfizer vaccine would be available to 16- to 39-year-olds from September 1.
The wait time averaged two-and-a-half hours on the first day Pfizer was available, despite everyone in line having pre-booked.
Twenty-seven-year-old Maya Wilson told Southbank News she booked as soon as she could after hearing the announcement and was “relieved” to be getting it.
“I wanted to wait for Pfizer because based on the research I’ve done it’s slightly more effective that AstraZeneca and has less risks for my age,” Ms Wilson said.
“I’m surprised that with such a long wait they don’t have chairs or water available.”
Thirty-one-year-old Luke Garcia was also excited to be getting his first dose, although he was disappointed that he hadn’t received any notification about the wait time.
“My booking was supposed to be for 5.35 [pm] but it’s 6:30 [pm] now and I can’t even see the front of the line,” Mr Garcia said.
“I just want to get this over and done with so that we can go back to normal and start living our lives again.”
In contrast to the long lines for Pfizer, the AstraZeneca queue was non-existent.
A nurse administering the vaccine, who did not want to be named, said she had “lost count” of how many vaccines she gave a day but that it was in the hundreds.
“I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself and that I’m helping Melbourne to open up,” she said.
“I also like helping calming people’s nerves and making sure they feel comfortable during the process, it’s really important.”
As of September 6, 2,610,567 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered across Victoria, with an average of 26,000 doses per day.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton tweeted on September 3 that the vaccination numbers were looking positive and urged anyone who had yet to book to do so.
“If you’re eligible but are still waiting on getting COVID-19 vaccinated because you think it’s not urgent, please understand just how urgent it is,” he wrote.
“Protect your family, your loved ones. Protect yourself.”
New vaccination hub targets community’s vulnerable
A new COVID vaccination centre set up at the Melbourne Town Hall will reach out to the city’s most vulnerable.
The City of Melbourne has teamed up with Cohealth to prioritise vaccinations for the disadvantaged, rough sleepers, people with English literacy limitations, refugees, and international students.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the vaccination hub, which opened on September 1, was designed to ensure everyone had equal access to the vaccine, with or without a Medicare card.
“Every member of our community matters. We want to create a city that is fair and prosperous, that values health and wellbeing, and welcomes people from all backgrounds,” she said.
The new vaccination hub at the Town Hall has a team consisting of nurse immunisers, a general practitioner and support staff.
Cr Capp added that the vaccination centre would open to more people in the future, but for now the general public should continue to access other centres within the municipality, including the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.
The council’s health, wellbeing and belonging lead Cr Dr Olivia Ball said the centre would initially have the capacity to vaccinate 200 people per day, and would scale up to 600 per day as vaccine supply increased.
Passers-by will also be treated to a vaccine hero art installation which features a series of black and white photos by renowned photographer Chris Hopkins. The photos are of Cohealth clients who are currently, or at risk of, experiencing homelessness receiving their first vaccine.
Members of the public can book a vaccination appointment by calling 1800 675 398.
Meanwhile, the City of Melbourne has launched its biggest vaccination incentive yet by offering an additional $50,000 in prizes to help the city get out of lockdowns.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the rewards – which brought the prize pool to $100,000 – were part of its Vaccine Heroes campaign aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing the city to reopen.
The latest initiative comes amid the federal government setting a goal of 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rate by the end of November to trigger an easing of restrictions.
People are encouraged to share their vaccine “hero stories” on Instagram for the chance to win a $1000 spending spree at the Queen Victoria Market, Emporium or Melbourne Central.
A $1000 shopping voucher will be given away every day for six weeks until October 10.
To enter the latest incentive, people are encouraged to post a selfie on Instagram showing themselves about to get vaccinated, having just been vaccinated or flashing their vaccine card.
They then must tag the City of Melbourne (@CityofMelbourne) and, in 25 words or less, what they’re most looking forward to when our city reopens.
Residents forced into isolation as exposure sites expand
Dozens of residents and workers in Southbank were forced into isolation after a host of locations emerged as COVID-19 exposure sites.
A Treat of France café on Southbank was closed for two days after being identified as a COVID exposure site – however it turned out to be a false positive COVID case who had attended its shop on August 23.
The café’s manager Semira Kirik said they had been “really affected” and were further frustrated that their City Rd business had remained listed as an exposure site days after.
“We called a couple of times and we got connected to somebody else and they’re not very helpful,” she said.
BWS at Melbourne Square was also identified as an exposure site on August 21, which underwent a deep clean and resumed trading as normal.
A positive case attended Terry White Chemmart in South Melbourne on August 18, however, head pharmacist Stephen Chan the store had been fully cleaned with all exposed staff and customers returning a negative COVID test.
Mr Chan said the pharmacy was still offering doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID vaccine and encouraged anyone aged 18 and over to book an appointment online or call the store on 9699 1693.
A Centrelink building at York St, South Melbourne was also listed as a COVID exposure site on August 18.
Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the centre was still open and delivering an essential service to the local community.
“The agency contacted the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services on August 29 when it became aware the South Melbourne Service Centre had been listed as a Tier 2 exposure site,” he said.
“We worked quickly with affected staff to ensure they complied with the Victorian DHHS advice to urgently get tested and isolated until they received a negative result.”
“The health and safety of our staff and customers is our top priority and we’re strictly adhering to all health orders set down by the Victorian Government.”
Other venues listed as exposure sites at the time of publishing on September 7 included IGA Xpress Southbank on St Kilda Rd, Woolworths Melbourne Square Southbank, 7-Eleven Freshwater Place, IGA St Kilda Rd, Story So Far Southbank, Queenie's Restaurant at Coventry St, a construction Site at Hancock St, Acquire BPO on St Kilda Rd, Humbaba Café on Dorcas St and Don Don South Melbourne on Bank St.
For more information visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au •