Victoria will emerge from its sixth lockdown later this week, in large part due to the high vaccination rates across the state. A dedicated pop-up vaccination clinic set up this week at the newly opened Victorian Pride Centre on Fitzroy Street is hoping to break those last barriers and get the LGBTQI community vaccinated.

The response has been tremendous, Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ Commissioner Todd Fernando told Star Observer about the ‘Fab Jab’ Campaign. 

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“We had heard concerns from a number of members in that cohort around safety and accountability within vaccination hubs. So we have provided a service in which to welcome inclusive practices within the health system, particularly in vaccination, to support LGBTQI+ people on the ground, to feel more comfortable in getting vaccinated by removing the barriers for those who have yet to do so,” said Fernando. 

Rainbow Vaccination Week Is Breaking Down Barriers

 

As the state heads towards 80% of the eligible population (16+) fully vaccinated later this month, the Dan Andrews government had pledged $21 million towards vaccinating those who have faced barriers in getting access to vaccinations, including people living with disability, culturally diverse communities and other marginalised sections. 

The Victorian Government partnered with a number of LGBTQI organisations to roll out the Rainbow Vaccination – part of a last mile push to get the LGBTQI community vaccinated.

“I’m truly inspired by the coming together of the rainbow sector; people and organisations, to  keep each other safe and well. We are good at this, and at this really important time, it’s happening  again. Personally, I’m moved by the collaboration and feel honoured to be part of it,” Ange Barry, CEO, Joy Media said in a statement. 

The Fab Jab campaign is the first major initiative that the Victorian Pride Centre is hosting after it opened in July. 

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“The FabJab campaign and our involvement as a vaccination pop-up site really reflects the Victorian Pride Centre’s values – to provide an inclusive and welcoming space for our LGBTIQ+ communities to access services that keep them safe. Working with StarHealth, JOY, and Thorne Harbour Health, the pop-up has brought a bit of fun and positivity to the process and we’re fortunate to have the VPC concierge volunteers help attendees feel comfortable and confident while they access the vaccine,” said Justine Dalla Riva, CEO of the Victorian Pride Centre. 

Making Vaccination Hubs Safe And Inclusive

Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ Commissioner Todd Fernando at the opening of the Victorian Pride Centre (July 2020). Photo – Gabriel Jia.

According to Fernando, the huge interest in vaccination bookings over the past two days could in part be attributed to campaigns like Fab Jab. 

“The response has been really really good… in Victoria, we’re heading towards being one of the most vaccinated places in the world and I couldn’t be prouder. Our government and my office is working, and is committed to boosting the support for all Victorians who face barriers to get their bad job,” said Fernando.

While there are no reports of vaccine hesitancy in the LGBTQI community, Fernando acknowledged that there were concerns from some in the community around health and  issues of trust. 

“We were hearing specific concerns in the community around information for trans and gender diverse people wanting reassurance that the vaccine won’t interact badly with their hormone replacement therapy or information for people with HIV needing to know that the vaccines won’t cause complications with HIV treatments,” explained Fernando. 

“The support that Drummond Street Services and Queer Space provides, supports our communities on the ground, particularly asylum seekers, refugees, communities of color, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities living in Victoria. We know that there is a history of mistrust between these communities, and the health service. And so this program really does allow us to reestablish what that trust race relations exercise looks like, and encourage them to get their jabs.”

Queer Venues And Pride Events

The Rainbow Vaccination Week runs till October 24, and Fernando reveals that the work to create safe spaces for the LGBTQI  community to get vaccinated will continue, 

“We are doing quite a lot of work to train staff and practitioners in the vaccination hubs to operate in a safe and inclusive way. Part of that training is videos, which look at the history of mistrust between the queer communities and the political service. We’re doing quite a lot of work in that space to ensure that when people go for their second jabs or for their boosters that they are in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Fernando. 

Premier Andrews has repeatedly stressed that as the state reopens and restrictions ease it will be a vaccinated economy. With hospitality and many other services allowing entry only for those fully vaccinated, it is all the more crucial for queer venues that the community is vaccinated. 

“Our community has been in lockdown for a number of months now in Victoria, and I really want them to get back out there and celebrate that pride. And part of that celebration is encouraging as many members of our communities to become vaccinated so that way, they can be supported to attend pride events into the future,” added Fernando. 

 

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