Increasing COVID-19 safety for our refugee communities

Refugee Health Service (RHS) expands its vaccination program to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine for refugees and asylum seekers.

CALHN’s Refugee Health Service has vaccinated around 40 new arrivals against COVID-19 since it expanded its vaccination program to include the COVID-19 vaccine in May. This number is set to dramatically increase by up to 20 per day when the clinic starts offering Pfizer vaccines to elligible clients from 29th June.

CALHN’s Divisional Director of Integrated Care, Lisa Bartholomaeus, says immunisation is an important part of the broad ranging suite of health services provided at RHS which also extends to educating new arrivals on how and where they can get the care they need

“The services provided by RHS are diverse and include children’s and women health services, GP and medical specialist clinics, therapeutic counselling, advocacy and psycho social case management, and a triage assessment for walk-in clients to support hospital avoidance,” Lisa said.

“Importantly the clinic also works with clients to help them to succesfully navigate the health system and improve  their literacy in health and safety linguistics, digital communications, virtual counselling options.

“We also offer an intepreting service, in more than 50 languages to remove communication barriers and provide a more welcoming environment and experience for patients. It’s important that discussions around medical history, including physical, psychological and social functioning are clearly understood,” Lisa said.

RHS Associate Nurse Unit Manager, Sue Dunford, said the service supported 264 new residents in 2020, and more than 900 in 2019, with numbers of new refugees impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Adding the COVID-19 vaccine to our vaccination program makes it easier to provide this vital vaccine to every asylum seeker and refugee who would like to receive it, alongside the range of other healthcare information, support and services,” Sue said.

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