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Tailored autism vaccination clinic a success

1 April 2022

Partnering with Autism Queensland, Metro South Health has provided a tailored vaccination experience for people on the autism spectrum and their families.

Across four days, vaccination clinics were provided at the organisation’s Sunnybank Hills site for Autism Queensland clients as well as others in the community needing additional support to be able to be vaccinated. These clinics provided a low-sensory environment, specially-trained staff, and used social stories and clients’ special interests to make the process a little easier.

Metro South Health Vaccination Program Director Renea Collins said a special needs assisted booking service also enabled families to phone ahead to discuss their individual needs and ease anxiety before the day.

“During the clinics, just over 100 people were vaccinated, and while the number may not seem particularly high, in some cases these people simply would have gone unvaccinated due to the significant barriers to accessing vaccination in other settings,” Ms Collins said.

“Some families had previously tried to be vaccinated in other settings and had poor experiences, so the difference we were able to make for these individuals was really valuable.”

Metro South Health Disability Nurse Navigator, Vikki Tomlinson, can attest to the challenges individuals with a disability can face in accessing suitable vaccination services. 

“For some of these individuals, their attendance at disability day programs and activities has been restricted as a result of being unable to access a vaccination," she said.

"The impacts of changes to usual routines and social isolation have resulted in emotionally and financially challenging times for many.”

Ms Tomlinson valued the opportunity for her clients with a disability to be vaccinated in a more person-centred and flexible way, removing the need for more invasive approaches such as sedation and anaesthetic. 

“By working collaboratively, we were able to advocate for modifications to traditional vaccination processes to better meet the unique and sometimes very complex needs of people with disabilities in the community.”

Carolyn Trewin used the special needs assisted booking service to book a vaccination for her daughter at the Autism Queensland clinic, and appreciated the time taken to consider her daughter’s needs. 

“The clinic was fantastic and really helpful and the small, outdoor, quiet space provided a perfect location.” 

Autism Queensland COO Frances Scodellaro said the tailored experience meant a lot to families.

“Our families often experience a high level of stress in doing day-to-day tasks and this service was able to ease so much anxiety for these families,” Ms Scodellaro said.

“The Metro South Health team was so understanding of the additional challenges. 

“It meant so much that they acknowledged that trying to get individuals on the autism spectrum vaccinated can be tough and were prepared to do everything they could to make the process smoother. Our families appreciated that.

“It was great to be able to provide this for our community, and it is also of benefit to the wider community to have additional people now vaccinated.”

The clinic will be running again on Friday 13 May and Saturday 14 May, open from 8.30am to 4pm. These clinics are available to anyone aged 5 and over and will be providing first, second and booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The special needs assisted booking service provides tailored and individualised vaccination assistance to individuals in the community. This service is available by calling 07 3176 7799 between the hours of 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday or via email at MSH-VaccBookings@health.qld.gov.au

Last updated 1 April 2022
Last reviewed 1 April 2022

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