BARWON Health’s COVID-19 vaccination hub is now officially in operation but the general public are not yet allowed to visit.
The facility, located in part of the former Ford plant in Norlane, has the capacity to vaccinate at least 2,000 people each day, dependent on supply.
However, this will not occur until larger and more regular shipments of the vaccine begin arriving, and it is not clear when that will be.
The hub started vaccinations for high-risk priority groups from the Phase 1A and 1B cohorts – healthcare staff including disability workers, and emergency service workers such as paramedics, police, and fire services – earlier this week.
Barwon Health has worked with site developers Pelligra and local contractors to fit out the site over the past three weeks, including improved disability access, carpeted floors, new bathroom facilities, resurfaced parking, privacy screens and consultation spaces.
“It’s a great use of the old Ford site, and the best thing is we’ll never have to explain to anyone in Geelong where to go because everybody in Geelong knows where Ford is,” Barwon Health chief executive officer Frances Diver said.
At a media event at the hub last week, four Barwon Health employees – two of which formerly worked at the Ford plant – received their second dose of the vaccine.
Ms Diver said she anticipated it could take about six months to vaccinate everyone in the Geelong region against COVID-19 if there was sufficient supply, but could not confirm when the Phase 1A and 1B vaccinations would be complete and the hub would open to the general public.
“It is some time away – we don’t have a date for that, because we don’t have enough supply yet,” she said. “We will let people know when it is time to come here.”
She said Barwon Health was in week six of the rollout in the Barwon South West region and had delivered 13,000 doses of the vaccine – which is not mandatory – so far, with a takeup rate of 86 per cent in residential aged care homes.
Barwon South West Public Health Unit director Professor Eugene Athan said people in Phase 1B were “extremely motivated” to be vaccinated for their own health and safety, but the general population was an entirely different cohort.
“When you’re talking about the younger generation, the working age group, I think there’s more people asking questions, small segments of the community that have, let’s say, reluctance and need good information, and I think we need to provide that with good, clear communication,” Prof. Athan said.
“I think we’ll certainly hit 80 per cent across the board, maybe closer to 90 per cent, if we can get the messaging right to the Australian population.”