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Better Chances Forum (BCF) is a collaboration supporting better chances for children, young people and their families to lead safe, happy and healthy lives.

On 20 October we held a zoom conversation about how we can support our vulnerable community members to understand the risks and benefits, make an informed choice and access COVID-19 vaccinations.

While COVID-19 vaccine supplies are now more plentiful in Northern NSW our vulnerable communities are facing greater risk if they are not vaccinated and may face barriers in taking up their choice to be vaccinated.

The conversation included a discussion panel with:

  • Carolyn Lloyd, Immunisation Coordinator Clinical Nurse Consultant, North Coast Public Health Unit, NSW Health
  • Dr Brett Lynam, General Practitioner and Healthy North Coast Population Health Clinical Adviser
  • Georgina Cohen, CEO Rekindling the Spirit.

What did we learn?

Many community members are keen to understand the technology behind different COVID-19 vaccines. Medical professionals have never seen this level of interest in vaccine technology, types or brands for flu vaccines or other population-wide immunisation programs.

The panel helped us unpack some of the questions that community members are asking. Here are some of the issues we discussed keeping in mind when supporting vulnerable community members to understand the risks and benefits, make decisions and access vaccination.

  • COVID-19 is a new disease that humans have not been exposed to before, unlike the flu, which we have some resistance to. That’s why it poses so much risk to our community, and particularly vulnerable community members.
  • mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been around for about a decade now. Although these vaccines are new, mRNA technology is not unknown and research and development for these types of vaccines has been going on for decades in the scientific community.
  • Studies in 2020 saw more people participate in testing than for other vaccinations we have been using for decades. COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster using existing technologies, but without cutting corners in development, testing or approval. This was possible because of the massive number of people infected and available to participate in testing, and a huge input of time, funding and resources with most experts in the industry working intensively on COVID-19 vaccine development in 2020-21.
  • To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines visit the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccines website.
  • Our vulnerable community members who are not vaccinated, and young children who cannot access vaccination, will carry a big share of the burden of risk in the coming weeks and months.
  • History, past policy, and past and some current practice has eroded some community members’ trust in governments and services. This can affect how some people think and feel about vaccination for COVID-19.
  • Some BCF members work with vulnerable young people who have no Medicare card and are reluctant to visit health services. Some collaboration between services, over time, may be needed to support some young people to understand and access vaccination. Contact BCF if you need support linking young people with relevant services.
  • A Medicare card is not essential to access COVID-19 vaccination.
  • We do not offer individual advice that we are not qualified to give. Seek medical advice for yourself and your family when you need to. Encourage your staff, participants and customers to seek individual medical advice when they need to too.

Contacts and links

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02483-w

https://www.science.org/content/blog-post/mrna-s-history–and-its-future