St. Mary’s Cathedral in Perth sets up COVID vaccination clinic as WA prepares for February reopening

Malls, hardware stores and mosques have hosted COVID-19 vaccination clinics – and now a cathedral in the heart of Perth’s CBD is helping support Western Australia’s deployment.

St. Mary’s Cathedral, near the Royal Perth Hospital, is the latest pop-up clinic to open in hopes of attracting both parishioners and members of the public.

Curtin University professor of global public health Jaya Dantas said she expected the state government to continue using pop-up clinics throughout the deployment.

“When vaccines are distributed to people, it is easier for them to get vaccinated, so removing some of the logistical and transport barriers would also help,” she said.

Public health expert Jaya Dantas says she expects the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination clinics to continue.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

“These pop-up clinics would be in community centers, in places like libraries, in places like religious places.

“It means people gather in these places and there are more opportunities for people to just come in and get the shot.”

About two dozen people were at the cathedral clinic when it opened today, with more expected in the afternoon.

The Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Sean Fernandez, received his booster dose of the vaccine.

He said it was important for the church to play its part in rolling out the vaccine.

“This is an important place in our church in Perth, and we want to reach out to Catholics in the community and the community at large, and show that we support this,” he said.

“We’re used to being behind health efforts and supporting the community, and that’s only part of that process.”

Opening of a clinic “for the common good”

Some Catholics have opposed vaccination because of concerns about the history of vaccine research.

“In some parts of the Catholic community there is concern because at the very beginning of the development of medical interventions … which ultimately led to these vaccines, there was some involvement of cell lines derived from aborted children,” said the Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe, said.

“And of course, the Catholic Church, our position on abortion is very, very clear, so there was a bit of confusion about it.”

A close-up of Timothy Costelloe inside St Mary's Cathedral.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has said the Church’s official position supports vaccination against COVID-19.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

But Archbishop Costelloe said the Church’s position on immunization was clear.

“In our Catholic approach to things, we don’t just talk about what I want or what is best for me or my rights,” he said.

“We have a fundamental principle that we make decisions on the basis of what is right for the common good.

During the week, a priest at a church in the southern suburbs of Perth wrote in his Christmas post – published in a local newspaper – that people were being forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine for fear of losing their jobs or not to be allowed to do so. to travel.

Archbishop Costelloe acknowledged that some within the Church would have different views, but the official position was clear.

“The important thing for us, having this here, is to indicate what the formal position of the Archdiocese is,” he said.

“Some people may have difficulty with this position, but it is the formal position of the Church.”

“It’s just the convenience”

Susana and Rohan Gay visited the clinic to receive their booster dose.

A portrait of Rohan and Susana Gay.
Rohan and Susana Gay received booster doses at St Mary’s Cathedral clinic.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Both supported the idea of ​​using pop-up clinics to bring the vaccine closer to people.

“[At GP clinics], we have to make an appointment and all that, where this one we can just show up, ”Ms. Gay said.

“It’s just the convenience, it’s close to where we live.”

Keith Claessen was also going to seek his recall.

“We come here for the Christmas service mainly,” he said.

“For me it’s been exactly five months, we thought we would get it ASAP.”

A targeted message is important: expert

Professor Dantas has been following the vaccine rollout closely and said smaller clinics would be important – not only for the main rollout, but also for the booster doses.

She said part of the advantage was that they were often in places familiar to people, like drugstores.

“Same thing with the community center, or in another pop-up clinic where there will be people who will give the health messages at the same time as the booster injections. “

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But concerns remain over vaccination rates in some communities, with double-dose rates for Indigenous Australians over the age of 15 in some regional areas as low as 42%.

These communities also need to receive more attention, according to Professor Dantas.

“We have engaged with our community health workers, but we need to do it in a much more effective way… where there is very little buy-in,” she said.

“So have targeted messages, for example, in indigenous communities or in migrant communities, where the rates are below 50%.

“We need to increase those immunization rates, and that’s where we need to do targeted interventions or messages to increase those immunization rates.”

Pop-up clinics represent a sixth of recent doses

WA has used pop-up clinics in shopping malls, schools, libraries, and even Perth stadium events to try to increase the state’s vaccination rate.

In the past 11 days, 3,619 vaccines have been administered at these clinics, according to WA Health.

That’s less than a sixth of the 27,187 doses that were administered on Friday alone.

But a spokesperson for WA Health said that didn’t tell the whole story.

“Many pop-up clinics target community groups with the lowest vaccination rates,” she said.

“The clinics were successful because they allowed people to receive their first, second and booster doses.

“These are people who protect themselves, their loved ones and the community from the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”

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