The COVID-19 pandemic has forced public health systems and governments at all levels to reassess how science-led programs are created and executed for the entire population.
While more than half of Australia’s population is under lockdowns, rapid uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most important message every leader around Australia, the Chief Medical Officers and epidemiologist are emphasising.
A pop-up COVID vaccination clinic in the northern suburb of Mill Park in Metropolitan Melbourne is delivering a unique message of mixing spirituality and social service.
Located at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS Temple) this vaccination clinic booked over 800+ appointments in a record time. Over four days this pop-up clinic will deliver over 800 jabs to those attending who are aged 16 years and older.
The Victorian Department of Health, DPV Health and BAPS Temple have collaborated and innovated to provide a large-scale vaccination program that can be rolled out with high-level CALD community engagement.
The collaborative team first delivered a COVID-19 Vaccine Information Webinar last weekend prior to opening the vaccination centre. BAPS Temple reached out to the Hindu community to combat the COVID misinformation issues which would hamper the pace of vaccination in the community.
The vaccination clinic is set up at the temple also has translators and medical staff on-site for the four days of its operations to assist Indian community members to provide the right information and the jab.
Messages of encouragement and blessings from the BAPS Swamis (Hindu Monks) provided confidence and lowered concerns about getting vaccinated. “His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual Guru (Leader) of BAPS has appealed to all to get vaccinated without any delay and in accordance with government guidelines.” Said Ms Ishita Patel, BAPS Community Engagement & Outreach Officer.
International students and elderly parents in Indian families have welcomed this opportunity with great enthusiasm. The familiar site of the temple which they visited regularly before the pandemic for Indian festival celebrations, prayers, community activities & to meet their friends also provides confidence and lowers concerns about language barriers or other fears to get vaccinated.
The BAPS temple used weekly online assemblies, phone calls, social media posts and personal messages on messaging platforms to spread the word about the information webinar and vaccination clinic appointments.
“BAPS volunteers are inspired to perform this COVID vaccination clinic community service following the ethos – ‘In the joy of others lies our own” – as demonstrated and taught to us by the previous BAPS Guru His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
“BAPS Australia is ready, willing and able to play its part in looking after the safety, health and well-being of its congregation and the broader community.” Said Sitesh Bhojani, member of the trustee board for BAPS Australia
He said: “With the guidance from our spiritual leaders, the BAPS Swamis, BAPS has teams of volunteers keen to provide Seva or selfless service to support the congregation and wider community getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”
In modern society when people trust self-driving cars for their technology and science, a minority part of the community struggles to ignore the online misinformation. Grassroots initiatives such as this try to reinforce the trust in medical science and the strict health and safety regulations we have in Australia.
In this 21st century, partnerships like this from health authorities and a place of worship are delivering the message of hope, trust and community-led actions.
The vaccination clinic at BAPS Mill Park Temple will also deliver the second dose of the vaccine in mid-October to people who have received their first dose during these four days to ensure full protection for people and to help authorities achieve their double dose vaccination targets in Victoria.