STAWELL REGIONAL HEALTH is working to refine its regional COVID-19 response and get as many community members vaccinated as possible, as the Victorian government shifts the focus of the state's path out of lockdown.
This comes after Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state was abandoning its 'COVID-zero' goal at a press conference on Wednesday.
Instead, Mr Andrews said the focus would be on keeping case numbers down as the state aims towards 70 per cent vaccination among adults, with hope for a slight easing of restrictions in regional Victoria.
With a focus on driving up vaccination rates, Stawell Regional Health board chair Kate Pryde said the group had expanded its vaccine offerings to include more sessions and services to outlying communities.
"When they started opening up the eligibility criteria, we had to respond to that by increasing the number of vaccination clinics we have," she said.
"We have a purpose-built COVID-19 vaccination clinic now. The community has responded really well in terms of accessing the clinic and getting vaccinated. We increased those clinics to five days a week. We have also had to increase our vaccination workforce as well.
"Stawell is supporting a regional approach now, where there are teams of vaccinators coming together to do outreach clinics to other regional areas to ensure that regional Victoria is getting access to the vaccine as broadly as possible."
As of August 27, data from the federal government's Operation COVID Shield has shown 64 per cent of Northern Grampians residents received their first COVID vaccine dose, and 41.2 per cent received their second.
Ms Pryde said getting as much of the population vaccinated as possible was also important should an outbreak occur in Stawell or other nearby towns.
"We understand how challenging lockdowns are so we will do everything we can to support everyone who wants to be vaccinated to get vaccinated," she said.
"Our understanding of the vaccine is that people that get COVID will not get as sick with COVID, so the demand on our health service will be less. People will have a lower viral load and a shorter time period to share the virus with others."
Stawell Regional Health's COVID-positive response was recently tested after an exposure scare at the Stawell police station, which proved to be a false alarm.
Ms Pryde said the near-miss proved how fast the health service could muster a public health response across multiple organisations.
"The response was fabulous. In Stawell, we have always had a shared plan for a COVID-19 response that includes Northern Grampians Shire and Grampians Community Health," she said.
"We were very much on standby had the test results come back positive. We had an en-masse community plan testing program ready to go.
"These plans have been in place for a very long time. We practice them every now and again and a near miss is always a good practice. As soon as we were aware that this was a risk to our community we put our standby plan in place."
She said the COVID scare was also a reminder for the community to stay vigilant and exercise caution.
"We need people to check-in, we need businesses to have all of the systems in place. I am just so proud of Stawell when I am in town and everybody is doing the right thing, but we can't let our vigilance slip," she said.
"I think vigilance is key at the moment until we can get ourselves to a safe point. It is important for our community to know that we do have the plans in place. That we have done everything we have to do as a health service and as a broader community to respond."
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