16 May 2022

After a jab well done, end is near for AIS Mass Vaccination Clinic

| Lottie Twyford
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AIS vaccine clinic

The end is nigh for the AIS Mass Vaccination Clinic which will administer its last doses at the end of this month. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The final jabs will be administered at the AIS Arena COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Clinic at the end of this month to allow staff to be redeployed across the healthcare system.

It will also allow for work to begin on upgrading the currently decommissioned arena. Both major federal parties have pledged funding towards the works.

Since it opened in September last year, the clinic has administered close to 286,000 vaccine doses. At the height of its operations, it was jabbing 23,000 arms a week.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has previously acknowledged not only is demand for vaccines slowing, but the pressure on the healthcare system means staff are needed elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the opening hours for the clinic were adjusted down to business hours operations only as Ms Stephen-Smith said demand was low outside of these hours.

But she also said the “high demand” and “workforce pressures” meant the system was experiencing increased demand for some services.

The pressure on the system in recent weeks has been attributed to both COVID-19 and a general increase in presentations related to other illnesses.

Minister for health Rachel Stephen-Smith

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the AIS played a major role in the ACT’s COVID-19 response. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Canberra Health Services also last month reduced the opening hours of the COVID-19 walk-in clinic in Garran to 8:30 am to 5 pm daily so staff members could be redeployed.

These changes follow the closure of the Canberra Airport Mass Vaccination Clinic in March, with health authorities saying the demand for booster doses had slowed to the point it could be managed by the AIS hub alone.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the AIS clinic had played a vital role in the Territory’s COVID-19 response and had greatly contributed to Canberra being one of the most vaccinated cities in the world.

“With more than 97 per cent of eligible Canberrans having already received their two primary COVID vaccine doses and more than 75 per cent of those aged 16 and over up-to-date with their booster, a mass clinic like the AIS Arena is no longer necessary,” she said.

“Canberrans now prefer to receive their vaccinations from their GP – consistent with our advice to discuss vaccination timing with a medical practitioner, particularly for those at higher risk of illness or those who’ve recently recovered from COVID-19.”

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Current medical advice is that people should wait three months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection to get their booster dose to achieve a better immune response and longer protection from reinfection.

Ms Stephen-Smith encouraged anyone eligible for a booster or winter dose to come forward for one.

Free COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available from participating GPs and pharmacies.

Other ACT Government vaccination services – including the Access and Sensory Vaccination Clinic and the Equity to Access Program – will continue to offer specialised services to Canberrans who need them.

Patients who have an AIS Arena COVID-19 vaccination booking from June onwards will be contacted by ACT Health to make alternative arrangements, including moving the appointment forward if possible.

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I’m glad to see it closed down. The ‘vaccine’ didn’t stop anyone from catching covid, or from spreading it. It should have been targeted at certain high risk groups (like the elderly and those with underlying health issues) and never mandated. Shame on the government (both Federal and State) for breaching so many human rights.

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