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Question: COVID-19 Vaccinations for People Who Are Homeless

25 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:37): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those experiencing homelessness.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: With an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, their ability to access the COVID-19 vaccine is particularly unclear, especially given this vaccine requires a follow-up shot. The pace of Australia's vaccination program is under increasing scrutiny and many experts are concerned some of the most vulnerable will be left behind. My question to the minister is: what is the current plan to ensure those experiencing homelessness have access to and receive the vaccine?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:37): My understanding is that, particularly in relation to the homeless cohort, homeless South Australians will be relying on our local health networks to reach out to them. This morning, I was talking to the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Professor Sue O'Neill, specifically on this topic. The approach that they are taking there is to take out a van. My understanding is it's a food van, which already provides food services to homeless people. My understanding is that that is obviously to facilitate familiarity and trust.

It's intended that there would be an ambulance attending with the van. Obviously, the risk of anaphylactic shock or other adverse effects is just as great for a homeless person as any other South Australian; in fact, I suspect it would be higher because of their likely relatively low health status. I certainly know that the Central Adelaide Local Health Network has a strong and proud heritage of providing outreach services to homeless people. My understanding is that they are activating those relationships, but I will seek more information for the honourable member and provide it to him separately.


The PRESIDENT: Supplementary, the Hon. Mr Simms.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:39): Noting the minister's answer, can he advise what arrangements will be put in place to ensure that a follow-up shot is provided to people who are homeless?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:39): No, it's a good point, and I failed to mention in response to the honourable member's question that Professor O'Neill indicated that this outreach service would use Pfizer shots so that the gap between the first shot and the second shot would be shorter. I don't think that means that there won't be problems in terms of follow-up, but that at least helps.

A three-week gap rather than a three-month gap is going to help delivery there. That is also, I think, one of the reasons why, in the context of the recalibration of the national vaccination program, Pfizer is being considered for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities—often more mobile communities.