As the wet season looms, the vaccination campaign against Japanese encephalitis (JEV) and influenza has kicked into high gear in the remote community of Maningrida as part of the Vulnerable Vaccinations Program (VVP).
The VVP is a collaboration between Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and NT PHN to deliver vaccinations in areas of the NT that need them most.
In a concerted effort, a team of outreach workers comprising of nurses, Aboriginal community workers and runners have delivered 777 JEV and 535 influenza vaccines among Maningrida’s 2,600 residents within the past month.
JEV, which causes an inflammation of the brain and can result in brain damage or even death, is endemic to the Torres Strait and Top End region of Australia and spreads through mosquito bites.
Maningrida and other similar communities across the Top End and Arnhem Land are considered high-risk locations, which is further intensified as the rainy season renders them inaccessible due to floodwaters.
Part of the program’s success is through the training and empowering of a local workforce who work closely with the outreach team. They have been instrumental in conducting visits from home to home and remote outstations.
Despite some challenges, such as heat and lack of connectivity or electricity, the team has been able to continue delivering the service and maintain a cold chain of vaccines.
Amber Walton, NT PHN’s primary health development coordinator, highlights the importance of collaboration between local and outreach workers to improve health outcomes.
‘Territorians in remote areas face some of the most challenging access to health in the country,’ said Amber.
‘This program is a step in the right direction. Outreach workers can provide critical care while upskilling and relying on the important connections of the local workforce.’
The outreach team is committed to ensuring that all eligible individuals receive vaccinations, extending their services to after-hours, weekends, and evenings, particularly during the community’s alternating no-alcohol weekends.
The Australian Centre for Disease Control provides training and up-to-date information to the outreach team and local health workers regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and schedule changes.