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Mobile floating vaccination clinic to start visiting Torres Strait islands

19 November 2021

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service is taking to the high seas to continue delivering vaccinations across the Torres Strait islands.

Torres and Cape HHS Chief Executive Beverley Hamerton said the mobile floating vaccination clinic would start doing the rounds in the Torres Strait from 22 November.

“To date, our vaccination teams have been accessing the Torres Strait islands by aircraft and helicopter,’’ she said.

“But we have now chartered a 24-metre motor cruiser – the Alfred Wallace – to help our teams move around the Strait more easily.

“I understand staff have already nicknamed her the SS Vaccine!

“There is accommodation aboard for all our vaccination team, which is a great benefit because finding overnight accommodation for a team of up to 12 people can be difficult on many of the small islands of the Torres Strait.

“The vessel also has a cold room which allows us to keep vaccines properly refrigerated for longer periods as our team makes their way around the islands to hold community clinics.’’

Ms Hamerton said the motor cruiser carried a crew of four, all of whom were fully vaccinated.

“The vessel will be fully disinfected every day it is in use for the safety of our staff and the crew,’’ she  said.

“As the vaccine rollout continues and more people are vaccinated, we are constantly looking at different ways of how we can best deliver vaccinations to our various communities.

“Using a boat to get around in the Torres Strait makes very good sense.

“We have also introduced dozens of additional vaccination clinics across the entire health service region since early September and we have been doorknocking quite widely in communities where the vaccination take-up has been low.

“We are focussing on people we know have not even had their first dose of vaccine and visiting them at home to see what further information or advice or assurances we can provide to convince them to be vaccinated.

“It’s a race against time now for Cape York, Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area residents to be vaccinated as quickly as possible before our borders reopen as we are starting to see

what could happen when COVID–19 gets into Indigenous communities.

“The Northern Territory has just reported the first recorded Australian case of COVID–19 in a resident of a remote Aboriginal community at Robinson River in the Gulf Country, and there is a cluster of cases at Katherine, which is now in lockdown.

“We have already seen how about 98 per cent of active cases in the New South Wales town of Moree are in the Aboriginal community, most of whom were unvaccinated.

“COVID–19 is coming, and vaccination is the best defence we have.

“Also remember that if you remain unvaccinated, or just partially vaccinated, you will be subject to significant additional restrictions on your activities that will not apply to the fully vaccinated.

“We have plenty of clinics available right through November and December and plenty of opportunities to be vaccinated and stay safe.’’

Ms Hamerton said Torres Strait, Cape York and NPA residents could check the ongoing vaccination clinic rollout schedule on the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service website.

“If there are no upcoming clinics in your area, all you have to do is go on the health service website and fill in a form to register your interest in being vaccinated and a vaccination will be arranged for you,’’ she said.

“You can also call us on (07) 3497 3442 or speak to your local health facility to arrange.’’

Ms Hamerton said the health service also had started contacting people who had completed their full course of vaccination to advise of the availability of their booster dose.

“We will have staff and residents who have completed the full course of vaccination becoming eligible for the booster dose from the end of the year onwards,’’ she said.

“We are contacting those people progressively to arrange a booking for their booster.

“The Pfizer vaccine has been approved nationally as the booster dose, no matter which vaccine you received for your first and second doses – whether AstraZeneca or Pfizer.’’

Ms Hamerton said last week the health service had delivered walk-in clinics at Aurukun, Wujal Wujal, Mapoon, Umagico, Kowanyama, Injinoo, Napranum, New Mapoon, Laura and Seisia.

“The RFDS also offered vaccinations during their visiting clinics at Coen, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama,’’ Ms Hamerton said.

“Next week, from 22 November, the health service will be offering clinics at Hammond, Poruma, Moa, Horn, Badu and Thursday islands, along with Hope Vale, Aurukun and Napranum.

“And the RFDS will be offering vaccinations during their visiting clinics at Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw  and  Kowanyama.

To date in the Torres Strait, 73 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 years and over has received a first dose of vaccine through the health service and 59 per cent of people are fully vaccinated with both doses.

Cape York has 62 per cent of the total estimated eligible population aged 12 years and over who have received their first dose of vaccine through the Torres and Cape HHS vaccination program alone, with 50 per cent now fully vaccinated.

In the Northern Peninsula Area, 54 per cent of the eligible population has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination so far, with 39 per cent fully vaccinated.

Across the Torres and Cape HHS as a whole, about 52 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 years and over is now fully vaccinated.

NOTE: percentages quoted above relate to vaccinations delivered by the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service only and do not include vaccinations delivered separately through other providers and external agencies. As a result, overall total regional vaccination rates will likely be higher.

Last updated: 19 November 2021