How communities help bring vaccinations to the bush

As a former general nurse and midwife in outback South Australia, Christine Wakelin brings an in-depth grasp of health issues in the bush.

She has lived and worked for many years with husband Barry on a farm, 23 kms from the town of Kimba.  “We claim to be halfway across Australia, from Sydney to Perth.”

This is a town which has been without a local general practitioner for some years.

Even despite the relatively remote location of the community in the Kimba region, Christine, or Tina as she is widely known, says access to the COVID vaccinations has been good.

“Our community has been well served by Covid testing and vaccinations through our local community health and visiting teams.

“We are part of a small community and join in activities in our town and region.”

Local community has been especially important during COVID particularly given that Tina’s four adult children live far away in distant big cities.

“We have been restricted by border closures from visiting those family members interstate and missed important planned events, like Christmas, birthdays and other family highlights, as have most Australians!”

Tina says she has observed little vaccine hesitancy in her community once the necessity has been explained, although the sometime confusing information from National Leaders and the media had caused confusion.

“Social media misinformation too has caused confusion and mistrust.”

And she says the lack of choice of vaccine available, particularly for those over 60, “has caused some resentment- some felt like we were expendable!”

But Tina says it helps her community feel it has important links to the wider health system through the local sealed airfield landing strip.  This makes possible emergency retrievals of urgent cases by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and much more.

“The Royal Flying Doctor Service has done an admirable job of making vaccinations available to remote areas.

“Those of us in the older age bracket well remember the mass vaccination of our childhood so have been prepared to roll up our sleeves!

“All our immediate Family are prepared to have the vaccine so they can get on with life, have travel options and help our country get back to more normal activities.

“Some I know of would not be having the vaccine if they could do the travel they want to, without it!

“Some people I have discussed this with just don’t like being told what they should do!!”

The rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID in parts of Australia is likely to be changing the minds of many hesitant people, Tina says.

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About the author

Mark Metherell

Mark Metherell joined the Consumers Health Forum of Australia as Communications Manager in February 2013. Previously he was the Canberra based health correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, a position he held since 1999. He was also medical reporter for the Age in the 1980s. In a newspaper career spanning 40 years, he has held a variety of other posts including news editor and defence and foreign affairs correspondent.