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Question: Vaccination Rollout

7th September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:50): I seek leave to make a brief statement before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for these 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. With an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, organisations that support homeless people are calling for them to be prioritised as part of the rollout. My questions to the minister are:

  1. How many people experiencing homelessness have received their first and second vaccination?
  2. What is the process for ensuring that follow-up appointments for full vaccinations are kept?
  3. What is the timeline for moving beyond a trial phase that is confined simply to the city?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:51): I thank the honourable member for his question. The Marshall government is determined to ensure that every South Australian has access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to keep our state safe and our economy strong. We have a particular focus on vulnerable people in our community.

SA Health has been working with the new homelessness alliances to ensure that service providers are engaged in the planning for the delivery of the vaccine in the homeless sector. The alliances include providers who deliver services to homeless people, from those sleeping rough, couch surfing or sleeping in cars, to those suffering domestic and family violence.

The rollout will continue in partnership with the sector, SA Health and SA Ambulance, with a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness. It was my privilege, on 9 July 2021, to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough at Westcare in Wright Street. It was particularly my privilege because my father was the superintendent at Westcare for some years.

South Australia's vaccine rollout program continues to gather momentum as vaccine supply increases. Some of the points I was making in my previous answer are directly relevant here too. We have been working with different service providers to work out what would work best for their particular service group. For example, in relation to one service we provided specific clinics at the Women's and Children's Hospital. In the northern suburbs a dedicated Aboriginal clinic has been established, and we continue to look at opportunities to expand service provision to the Aboriginal community.

In relation to the point the honourable member makes about second doses, one of the strategies to facilitate the completion of the vaccine cycle is for an outreach service to come back at the relevant time after their first visit. Also, SA Health does continue to provide a call-back service through the local health networks to promote the need for a second dose. In our regions, SA Health is working with local providers of services and offering the vaccine across several sites.

On the point the honourable member made in terms of coverage, it is difficult to determine how many homeless people have been vaccinated as it is not an identifier used for recording purposes in the Australian immunisation register. The Marshall government will continue in our efforts to ensure that it is widely available.

Homeless people continue to be a priority for this government during the pandemic. Members would recall that during the first wave the honourable Minister for Human Services facilitated hotel accommodation to protect homeless citizens. We are all in this together, and none of us are safe from the virus until we are all safe from the virus.

The honourable member expressed concern first of all that it was a pilot and secondly that we were being city focused. This issue was raised on 9 July. It was never a pilot in the sense that we were seeing whether we liked the idea. The fact is we are committed to outreach services, as I said in my previous answer. It was a pilot in the sense that, there being an outreach service from the mass vaccination clinic at Wayville, did this model work?

The fact that the model does work is reflected in the fact that we are continuing to deliver these types of services. For example, last week our mobile vaccination clinics visited a range of sites, including sites at which homeless people would often be engaged. We had mobile vaccination clinics at Central DASA, the Hutt St Centre, Westcare Day Centre, Common Ground, Aldinga Community Centre, the Noarlunga Aboriginal Family Clinic, the Hackham West Community Centre and the Christies Downs Community House.

I am delighted that we are now moving into the period where supplies of the vaccine are significantly increasing, because that will give us even more opportunities to reach out to vulnerable communities or vaccine hesitant communities.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:56): Supplementary: I thank the minister for his comprehensive response. I note his statement that it is difficult to—

The PRESIDENT: Question, please.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I note his statement that it is difficult to get data on people who are experiencing homelessness and those who have received the vaccination.

The PRESIDENT: Question, the Hon. Mr Simms.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Will he give an undertaking, however, that he will share the information that he does have with this place?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:57): I certainly will see if I can get further information. As I said, the AIR data doesn't record immunisation, so we would have to be using other means.