Vinnies jabs help keep Covid at bay

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Rolling up sleeves to help … a St Vincent’s Hospital worker vaccinates a rough sleeper at the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Rolling up sleeves to help … a St Vincent’s Hospital worker vaccinates a rough sleeper at the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Complying with current NSW health orders to stay home is impossible when you don’t have one.

The current situation is therefore leaving Sydney’s rough sleepers at greater risk of contracting COVID.

So St Vincent’s Hospital is looking after our most vulnerable members of the community by taking vaccinations to the streets.

“We know that this is a population that’s extremely vulnerable and that if COVID does get to those sleeping rough … it’s going to be extremely difficult to contain.”

Carrying on the charism of the founders of the hospital, the Sisters of Charity, the Vax Van has administered more than 4000 vaccines to the homeless or those living in boarding houses or temporary accommodation.

Incident Response and Disaster Manager at St Vincent’s Hospital, Danielle Austin, has been operating out of the Vax Van for the past 18 months and said ironically it was “the invisible people in our community who were the first to answer the call to get vaccinated”.

She said if you provide the opportunity to be vaccinated they will come.

Incident Response and Disaster Manager Danielle Austin carrys on the charism of the Sisters of Charity by offering equitable access to vaccinations for the vulnerable. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Incident Response and Disaster Manager Danielle Austin carrys on the charism of the Sisters of Charity by offering equitable access to vaccinations for the vulnerable. Photo: Kate Geraghty

“I guess they were the first to come forward because they just knew if it got in their community they would all get it,” she said.

“We know that this is a population that’s extremely vulnerable and that if COVID does get to those sleeping rough, or populations in boarding houses or temporary accommodation, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to contain.

“Many people experiencing homelessness often have difficulties accessing mainstream healthcare services for a number of reasons.

“Getting vaccinated is like I won the Lotto, I really just wanted to get the vaccines and get on with my life and let my family not stress out as much.”

“The vaccination program relies on people having free access to the internet so that they can make bookings, access to mobile phones, having access to Medicare and those sorts of things.

“So what we’ve done with this hub, is we’ve made it extremely simple for people who may not have that free access to technology.”

Robert Norford, who has been homeless long term, was one of the first to come forward and get the jab because he had become “even more isolated from his family due to the pandemic”.

Incident Response and Disaster Manager Danielle Austin carrys on the charism of the Sisters of Charity by offering equitable access to vaccinations for the vulnerable. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Incident Response and Disaster Manager Danielle Austin carrys on the charism of the Sisters of Charity by offering equitable access to vaccinations for the vulnerable. Photo: Kate Geraghty

“Getting vaccinated is like I won the Lotto, I really just wanted to get the vaccines and get on with my life and let my family not stress out as much,” he said.

“Now I have more chance of seeing my elderly mum and other members of my family that I have not been able to see for a long time.”

St Vincent’s Hospital spokesman David Faktor said the outreach program was following in the footsteps of its founders and offering equitable access to vaccinations.

“So what we’ve done with this hub, is we’ve made it extremely simple for people who may not have that free access to technology.”

“When Mary Aikenhead founded the Sisters of Charity in 1815, they became one of the first non-cloistered congregations, with a mission to go out on the streets to help Dublin’s poor and vulnerable,” he said.

“It is a testament to the strength of our mission and values that over two hundred years later, St Vincent’s is so faithfully serving Mary Aikenhead’s vision to go out to those in need in the community during this pandemic, to help ensure that our vulnerable are vaccinated as a priority.”