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Question: SA Reopening and Vaccination Rollout for the Homeless

17 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: 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: Back in July, the government announced its trial COVID-19 vaccination clinic for South Australians experiencing homelessness in the city, as part of its outreach program. Given South Australia's borders are set to open next Tuesday and there are an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, it's critical that the vaccine rollout continues to prioritise some of our most vulnerable. My question to the minister therefore is: is the government confident that the 80 per cent vaccination target to trigger the reopening of our borders will be met with those experiencing homelessness?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): Starting my answer to the honourable member's question, there are difficulties in terms of assessing the level of vaccine take-up amongst the homeless community. One of the factors there is that people experiencing mental health issues, domestic violence, homelessness or a combination of these issues are not required to self-identify for the purpose of recording their vaccination status on the Australian immunisation record. This is for their safety and wellbeing, but it does mean that it is very difficult to determine how many people experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated.

The government is continuing to roll out a targeted campaign to deal with vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness. In the context of homelessness we are working particularly with key stakeholders, like the alliances and the larger providers of homeless services, to provide access to the vaccines. SA Health, the Ambulance Service and the sector are partnering to deliver a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness.

I was privileged to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough in July this year at Westcare, a launch that attracted national interest. Since then, the rollout has continued across the metropolitan area, with vaccination sites being used, including SHINE, mental health facilities in the Parklands, and mobile services targeting vulnerable groups, which have been active in the suburbs of Playford, Gawler, Onkaparinga and in the regions.

The Central Adelaide Local Health Network is providing vaccines to people who attend the Hutt Street Centre, with additional vaccination services provided to a range of organisations working with the homeless community, including the Salvation Army homeless service, the Western Adelaide Homelessness Service, Streetlink, Uniting Care Gawler, Fred's Van and St Vincent de Paul Society. Vaccinations have also been provided in clinics for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

The government is continuing its efforts to ensure the vaccine is widely available, and that all vulnerable cohorts are a priority. More than 2.4 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered. I want to thank all South Australians who have rolled up their sleeve to be vaccinated, and encourage those who haven't to present at one of our clinics or engage with a GP or pharmacy. The vaccine is our pathway out of the pandemic, and it has never been easier to be vaccinated.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, can the minister explain how close the government is to the 80 per cent vaccination target for people who are homeless, and can he provide specific information on what process is in place to ensure booster shots are being made available to those who are homeless?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:07): With regard to the second question of booster shots, it is certainly our anticipation that we will continue to partner within SA Health and with our partners to continue deliver vaccines into next year, including booster shots. The booster shots are particularly recommended for vulnerable communities, so it will be a particular focus with vulnerable communities. I do not have specific data in relation to the percentage of homeless people who are thought to have been vaccinated, but I will see what information I can obtain for the honourable member.