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Specialist COVID-19 vaccine hub for people with disability opens in Melbourne's north

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Scope Australia's specialist COVID-19 vaccination hub in Melbourne's north has opened its doors to offer disability staff and residents a "safe" space to receive their vaccines.

The service's chief executive Jennifer Fitzgerald said the organisation was "pleased" the hub in Glenroy had opened after "trying for some time" to get the program up and running.

They are already fully booked for the first week.

 "Last year we had 1,400 people across 270 homes in lockdown, that was really tough for them," Dr Fitzgerald told ABC Radio Melbourne.

The hub is staffed with experienced disability support workers and has been specifically set up to cater to the needs of people with disability.

Play Audio. Duration: 7 minutes 25 seconds
Scope Australia's Jennifer Fitzgerald speaks about how the organisation will vaccinate its residents and staff.

"It's so important that people feel safe, many of the people we support find too much sensory input just quite overwhelming," she said.

"So they need a space where they are with familiar people, where it is quiet and if they need time out then there is a space they can go."

As of Friday, 239 of Scope Australia's residents had received a COVID-19 vaccine, with another 913 appointments booked.

Dr Fitzgerald has encouraged all of her staff to get vaccinated, but it is not mandatory.

"We need direction, we will apply that direction, but we need the federal government to give us that clear guidance," she said.

Disability rollout virtually 'non-existent'

While welcoming the specialist vaccine hubs in some locations, Rosemary Symon said it won't help her daughter, Rachel, who lives in a group home in Albury.

She said the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in disability care settings has been basically "non-existent".

"Nobody has been able to give me any information for months, and then not to be able to get through on the 1800 number ... the lack of information has been just appalling."

With no date booked for in-home vaccination, Ms Symon's decided to book her daughter in at the Wodonga vaccination centre.

"I hopefully have resolved Rachel's issue, but it still hasn't solved the problem for the other residents," she said.

"It's not as if the federal government hasn't had time to plan for this."

Health Department figures from Senate estimates last week revealed that just 355 of the more than 22,000 people with disabilities living in residential settings had been fully vaccinated.

The head of the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group at the Doherty Institute Terry Nolan said a multi-prong strategy would make "a lot of sense".

"At the end of the day the more people who are doing things the better."

Last week the Victorian state government introduced priority access lines for aged care and disability staff to receive vaccinations at a number of state run hubs.

Professor Nolan said it is vital authorities know exactly how many staff and residents in disability and aged care settings have received COVID-19 vaccines.

"Good quality data is very important, you can never set and forget," he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds have been contacted for comment.

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