A PILOT program is ensuring Bendigo's Karen community are supported to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Bendigo Health and Bendigo Community Health Services worked with leaders of the Karen community to develop the outreach vaccination clinic at a Buddhist temple in Eaglehawk.
There were 50 Karen people who received either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday as part of the program.
The Venerable Ashin Moonieinda, a Bendigo-based Buddhist monk, said the clinic was important because the vaccination process could be confusing for the Karen community.
"Most people cannot speak English and it is very hard to use the hotline," he said. "It's better to organise for them to come to the place they know.
"It's important we have the vaccine because we have to keep healthy. It's very important."
Bendigo Community Health Services cultural diversity and relationships manager Kaye Graves said the program made the vaccine more accessible to the Karen community.
"We have done a lot of education sessions with the Karen, just to build their understanding of why the vaccine is important and what to look out for with some side effects," Ms Graves said.
"We had 50 booked in and we've got about eight Karen speaking staff here and interpreters from Bendigo Health as well to make sure informed consent is given."
Ms Graves said the program was built on a foundation of trust.
"I think the localised approach, using staff with lived experience and with language, is definitely the way to go," she said. "We've worked really hard.
"I came out here and did a session with my interpreter staff. We had 19 turn up. When I started the session, about 40 per cent of people thought they would get the vaccine. By the end of it, it was 99 per cent.
"So talking through it is really important. Our first 50 will take photos, they will talk about it, and the word will spread that it's a good thing to do and this is how we do it."
A Bendigo Health spokesperson said the outreach program ensured the Karen community could be vaccinated in a space where they were most comfortable.
The spokesperson noted that the Karen vaccination clinic was one of many community outreach clinics planned for the region.
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