Local COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics to close

Castlemaine Health’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic is set to close this month with Wednesday, 22 June 2022 the final day for vaccinations.

The clinic has played a vital role in our local COVID-19 response and greatly contributed to the high vaccination rates in our shire. Closure of the clinic will enable staff to move back into frontline nursing roles to support the healthcare system. The COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic will have administered almost 15,000 COVID-19 vaccinations when it closes at the end of the month.

Shelley Leathem, Nurse Unit Manager of Vaccination and Testing, said “More than 95% of eligible residents in Mount Alexander Shire have already received their two primary COVID vaccine doses and more than 82% of those aged 16 and over are up-to-date with their booster. We are pleased with the results and feel we have significantly contributed to the safety of the community.

“Once our clinic closes, residents will still be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from their own GP or local pharmacists, and Bendigo Health will continue to run a vaccination clinic. Getting vaccinated is still as important as ever and I’d encourage anyone who is eligible to book into our clinic over the next two weeks, particularly those who have just become eligible.”

On 25 May, eligibility for a fourth or ‘Winter’ dose opened up to people aged 16-64 years who have complex, chronic or severe conditions that are considered to increase their risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People in this group are strongly encouraged to visit the clinic for their fourth dose before it closes.

Current health advice is that that people are eligible for a winter dose four months after their first booster and three months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection. Waiting for a three-month period after infection is intended to optimise protection for that person. A longer gap between infection and vaccination is likely to lead to a better immune response and result in longer protection from reinfection.

With demand for COVID-19 testing similarly reduced, the COVID-19 Testing Clinic at the Castlemaine Stadium in Wesley Hill will also hold its last testing day on Thursday, 16 June. The Victorian Department of Health will officially decommission the site on Friday, 17 June.  The testing team are currently working with the Mount Alexander Shire Council to consider how the community might be supported with COVID-19 testing through the winter months.

Since its opening, the clinic has completed 16,754 PCR tests and distributed 21,021 Rapid Antigen Tests to the local community. The clinic moved from Mostyn Street to Wesley Hill in late 2021 and has regularly scaled its operations up and down in response to demand. In October 2021 the clinic tested 432 people in one day, the highest number of tests in any single day since the clinic opened.

Ms Leathem said “I’d like to thank our testing and vaccination teams for their incredible work serving our local people. We simply could not have achieved such high vaccination rates locally, nor could we have managed the spread of COVID-19 without them. Their continued dedication and efforts have been an asset to our community and helped us all stay safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The closure of smaller vaccination clinics and testing clinics is being reflected across the State in response to high vaccination rates and reduced demand for testing.  COVID-19 vaccinations will remain available for free from GPs, pharmacies and regionally from Bendigo Health.

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