Not-for-profit community health service, cohealth, says that there is a real opportunity to apply the lessons learned during the pandemic response to the rollout of vaccine in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities.
The statement coincides with the release of the final report from the PAEC Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Community health services played a key role in responding to the needs of marginalised people during COVID-19, and we will again be central to the rollout of vaccinations,” said Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.
“We have deep connections with marginalised communities, including with people who are experiencing homelessness, are refugees and asylum seekers, people living in public housing and those from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“Community health relationships paid enormous dividends during the pandemic, enabling the spread of health information in language to hard-to-reach community members.”
“We have seen the benefits of employing community members to be part of the COVID response, and there is opportunity to replicate that model in the vaccination program.
“Community leaders need to be engaged to help share vaccine information, translate health advice, dispel misconceptions and identify knowledge gaps, and be part of the vaccination process,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
cohealth also highlighted the need for the vaccination program to be flexible to the needs of people facing homelessness, extreme poverty, addiction and mental ill-health, who may find it difficult to schedule and attend appointments, manage medical documents, and understand and follow health directions.
“The people we work with are often struggling just to get through each day – finding food, keeping a roof over their head, managing chronic health conditions.
“It will be important to proactively engage these vulnerable people when it comes to the vaccine. Community-based organisations are in a good position to do that outreach,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
“We’re pleased that the PAEC report highlights the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. We urge policy makers to remember this and prioritise those most at risk as we rollout the vaccine nationally,” she said.
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cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.