22nd July 2021
cohealth has this week kicked-off a program to support vaccination of people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage via pop-up clinics at homelessness services, drop-in centres and crisis accommodation facilities around the inner northern suburbs and CBD.
Each cohealth vaccination team will include two nurse immunisers, a social worker, a clerical services officer and one worker who has experienced homelessness (a peer worker) and have the capacity to vaccinate 40 people per day.
The first vaccine locations will be at cohealth’s CBD homelessness service at 53 Victoria Street Melbourne, and Innerspace drop-in service at 4-6 Johnston St Collingwood, followed by cohealth’s alcohol and other drug service at 4-12 Buckley St, Footscray. The vaccine program will also extend to other drop-in centres and services used by people experiencing homelessness such as the Salvation Army Melbourne Project on Bourke St and St Mark’s Community Centre in Fitzroy.
“Taking the COVID-19 vaccine to the most at-risk Victorians is a critical part of the pandemic response, and people experiencing homelessness are arguably our most disadvantaged community members,” said Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.
“Taking healthcare to where people are in the community is a fundamental principle of community health.”
“People without a secure home are highly vulnerable to COVID, and yet have the greatest barriers to accessing the vaccine due to limited transport, poor health literacy and difficulty accessing up-to-date health information,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
Incorporating a peer worker into the vaccine clinic is critical to successful vaccine uptake, says cohealth.
“Having someone with a lived experience of homelessness on the team is vital because they can engage with the clients based on their shared experience,” she said.
The rollout of the homelessness vaccine teams comes after a targeted community engagement campaign which saw homelessness peer workers delivering flyers and information sessions to rooming houses and homelessness drop-in centres to dispel myths about the vaccine.
cohealth says vaccinating people experiencing homelessness and other transient populations presents additional challenges due to the complexity of coordinating second doses with each client.
The vaccine clinic is being rolled out as part of the C-19 Network of five community health organisations. The network is a partnership between in cohealth, DPV Health, EACH, IPC Health and StarHealth. The C-19 network have been engaged by the Victorian Government to provide vaccines to people facing disadvantage, including those in public housing, in marginal accommodation, and those experiencing homelessness.
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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.