Workers at a northern New South Wales meat processor will be able to get their COVID-19 jabs at an onsite vaccine hub, as the company tries to boost vaccination rates.
- The Casino Food Co-op expects to significantly boost its workers’ vaccination rates with an onsite vaccine hub
- Alstonville Clinic will deliver 40 Pfizer doses an hour to workers at the Booyong pork plant
- The meat processor may also lobby to set up a vaccine hub at its larger Casino facility
The vaccine hub at The Casino Food Co-op’s pork processing facility at Booyong, north of Lismore, will be available to the plant’s 100-plus staff.
The co-op’s group human resources manager Dan Smith said the move aimed to boost vaccination rates among staff and test the onsite clinic model.
“We worked with Healthy North Coast, the federal arm of the Public Health Network, to initiate something to see what we could do,” Mr Smith said.
Alstonville Clinic staff will administer first doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the meat workers on Friday.
“They’ve been doing it across the road from their medical centre and running these mass programs in the community,” he said.
“This clinic is going to be a Pfizer clinic based on we only have a small percentage [of workers] that are eligible for the AstraZeneca.”
Second hub could be set up
Despite meat processing workers being deemed a priority under phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, the vaccination rate at Booyong is about 15 to 20 per cent and about 20 per cent at the co-op’s beef plant in Casino.
“It’s been quite low being that production wise it’s been quite busy and to get access to clinics on weekend has been difficult,” he said.
Mr Smith said he expected a high percentage of workers would take advantage of the onsite vaccine hub.
“We’ve got a relationship with another medical centre here in Casino and they’ve allocated 30 vaccines a week to us, so we’re just coordinating that each week to get our employees vaccinated,” Mr Smith said.
“It’s definitely a trial at Booyong to see how successful it is, and then obviously I’ll be lobbying quite hard to get enough doses to do 500 to 600 onsite.”
The second Pfizer dose for the Booyong workers vaccinated onsite this week is scheduled for September 24.
Promise to deliver Pfizer doses needed
Healthy North Coast’s director of operations Luke Elias said the on-site COVID-19 vaccine hub at Booyong was a first for his organisation.
“This is really one of our first industry examples where we’re going out to meet people at a workplace for a priority group in the vaccination rollout, so a very exciting time and a real landmark step for us,” he said.
“We’ve had some other dealings with agricultural workers, we have some seasonal fruit pickers who are making their way up to the Northern Rivers.
While Pfizer availability has been a challenge for The Casino Food Co-op, Mr Elias is committed to sourcing the vaccine doses needed for a second hub.
“The supply for Pfizer has been quite limited in our regional and rural areas, and we are just starting now over the next few weeks to get access to a more regular and higher volume supply of Pfizer,” he said.
“These sorts of dose numbers, 500 to 600, might sound like a lot but we are talking across our region.
“From the border right down to Port Macquarie, we’re talking doses in excess of 10,000 a week, so 500 to 600 doses to be set aside for some workplace vaccinations, with a big of logistics and planning, is certainly a thing that we can do.
“I would be hopeful through September, if we co-ordinated and planned it well and had practices who were able to get mobile, that we’d be able to offer some on-site work certainly towards the end of September, with all things going well.”
Mr Elias said working with The Casino Food Co-op was a great example of a pro-active partnership.
He said Lieutenant General John Frewen’s COVID Shield workforce vaccination plan had highlighted the need to head towards workplaces and schools in the later stages of the rollout.
“We’re very pleased to be able to do this a bit earlier on and be able to provide this access for a group of workers who are high risk and high priority in the rollout,” he said.
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