Inside Australia’s first drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Melton, Victoria
Yara Murray-Atfield and Patrick Rocca
9 Aug 2021
At the site of a former Bunnings warehouse, nurses prepare doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from a portable fridge.
Instead of building supplies and sausage sizzles, the warehouse at 149 Barries Road in Melton, in Melbourne’s outer north-west, is now home to Australia’s first drive-through coronavirus vaccination clinic.
“You book, you drive up, roll down your window, roll up your sleeve, get a jab. It’s that easy,” Department of Health deputy secretary Naomi Bromley said in making the announcement.
At an invitation-only soft launch on Sunday, people drove up to parking bays, spoke to a healthcare worker, and received their dose.
Bunnings is leasing the site to the Victorian Department of Health. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
Lisa Smith, the project director at Western Health’s west metro vaccination program, said a proposal for a drive-through vaccination site was put to authorities months ago.
But the logistics were finalised and ironed out on butcher’s paper in recent days.
“It’s been absolutely phenomenal in terms of the effort to turn this around,” Ms Smith said.
Western Health says the plan was finalised within a matter of days. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
The site was planned in line with advice from Australia’s vaccine advisory group, ATAGI, on what a safe drive-through model would look like.
People will remain in their cars throughout the process, something Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says will make it “almost impossible to infect someone else”.
The planning included looking at how countries such as Israel and the United States had successfully used drive-through sites for vaccination.
“Unsurprisingly, most of the [ATAGI] guidelines are around traffic management,” Ms Smith said.
“And obviously the management if somebody was to have an adverse reaction, and those align with what we would do in a vaccination centre anyway. The added complexity is traffic management.”
Healthcare workers will deliver the shots through car windows and into recipients’ arms.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
The drive-through clinic opens to the public on Monday.
It will begin with the Pfizer vaccine, and eligibility will be the same as at any clinic or doctor’s office in Victoria: People aged 40 to 59 can book in.
Aboriginal Victorians, people with relevant health issues and priority workers under the age of 40 are also eligible.
People will need to book through the Department of Health before driving up.
Family groups can go together, as long as the Western Health staff have access to all the relevant arms through the car window.
There is currently the capacity for two bays of six cars each to be vaccinated at the same time. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
The doses will be administered to cars parked in two bays, six at a time.
There are six doses of the Pfizer vaccine per vial, and the super-cold temperatures the vaccine must be kept at means doing six at a time prevents wastage.
Western Health hopes that as the process proves safe and effective, more bays will open up.
From there, it’s hoped the model can be followed elsewhere in the state and country.
Once the drive-through expands to administer AstraZeneca doses from next week, the usual eligibility for that vaccine will apply: people aged 60 and over, or those under 60 who provide informed consent.
Victoria has just expanded nine other state-run vaccination centres to allow people aged 18 to 49 to receive the AstraZeneca shot after discussing their medical history and the pros and cons with a doctor.
A new mass vaccination hub will accompany the drive-through site from Wednesday.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
A more traditional mass-vaccination site inside the warehouse itself will be operational from Wednesday, allowing people to book and walk inside the buildings as they would at any other state clinic.
Larger fridges and pharmacists will be based at the mass hub, allowing the Pfizer doses to be stored there until just before they need to be administered.
“This will enable us to get through probably around 2,000 [doses] a day,” Ms Smith said.
It joins more than 50 mass-vaccination hubs run by the state and the hundreds of GPs — and soon to be pharmacies — administering the shots through the Commonwealth rollout.
“It comes back to giving people another option to get vaccinated. The simpler we can make it the better,” Ms Smith said.