Country boy Chris urges jab

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenCountryman
WA Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson.
Camera IconWA Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner

As harvest time kicks into gear throughout the Wheatbelt, the WA Country Health Service has launched a campaign to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Pop-up vaccination clinics will appear in towns across the region in coming weeks, including at Bindoon, Kondinin and Northam on Monday and Tuesday next week.

One of the first clinics opened in Merredin on Monday this week and ran for three days.

Merredin has one of WA’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination uptakes, with 60 per cent of its 2715 population over the age of 15 having had their first jab, according to the Department of Health.

WA COVID-19 Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson, who is spearheading the campaign, said it was vital those living and working in the Wheatbelt were vaccinated as soon as possible.

“With harvest coming on, growers don’t want their workforce to be depleted because someone’s crook and they’re unable to work, or because they have to deep clean the header or the truck because they’ve had an infected person in there,” he said.

“So what we’re doing with WA Country Health is targeting the towns in the Wheatbelt in the run-up to Christmas.”

With a bumper harvest looming, Commissioner Dawson said it was too much to expect farmers to travel from the Wheatbelt to Perth to get vaccinated.

“I come from a farming background and I know that it’s a busy time of year,” he said.

“Before people are flat-out in harvest — when they’re loath to take a break because they want to take a crop off — they need to prepare themselves.

“Just like you’ve got to prepare your machinery, you’ve got to prepare your workforce.”

State-wide, more than 75 per cent of WA’s population over the age of 15 has had their first vaccination, according to the latest figures.

But vaccination rates are lagging in the Wheatbelt, with Chittering and Cunderdin having some of the lowest uptakes at 65 per cent and 63 per cent (first dose) respectively.

Mingenew, Moora and Dowerin are the Wheatbelt’s top performers, boasting first-dose vaccination rates of 91 per cent, 84 per cent and 82 per cent respectively.

Wongan-Ballidu and Tammin also have 82 per cent first-dose vaccination rates.

“People need to understand firstly that you need two doses to get fully protected from this deadly disease,” Commissioner Dawson said.

“Secondly, that with each vaccination it takes about three weeks for the antibodies to build up post-vaccination.

“It’s not a case that if and when the disease crosses our border you can suddenly rush in and get vaccinated. You really need to be vaccinated now.”

Other pop-up clinics in the Wheatbelt will include Boddington (November 8-12), Cunderdin (November 10-11), Lake Grace (November 10-11), and Lancelin (November 3-4), with more to be announced in coming weeks.

Clinics will also be held throughout the Mid-West, Kimberley, Pilbara and South West.

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