History of Graduate House Vaccination Day and the formation of the Vaccination Cafe
The free public influenza vaccination events started in 2012 when the Immunisation Coalition (IC) partnered with the University of Melbourne’s Graduate House to hold a media event while offering free flu shots. We had access to the Graduate Union’s library, where around 20 members of the public (mostly students from Graduate House) came forward to be vaccinated in front of a TV crew. The vaccinations were administered by Kerryn Lajoie (a senior nurse practitioner and member of the IC), who has been a long-time supporter of the IC. The vaccinations were followed by interviews (TV, radio, print) with Dr Alan Hampson OAM, the first Chairman of the IC (which was then known as the Influenza Specialist Group).
The event was deemed such a great success that it was decided to repeat the performance again in 2013. In the expectation that more people were likely to attend, a function room was provided at Graduate House. On this occasion, around 50 people were vaccinated, with the media again arriving to photograph the event, and take more interviews.
The Graduate House Vaccination Day was then locked in as an annual event. In 2014 Melbourne University alumni were booking ahead for the event, and Kerryn Lajoie came with a team of volunteer vaccination nurses. Almost 100 people received a flu vaccination that year.
The event was becoming increasingly popular, with around 400 vaccinated in 2018. In 2019, that increased to almost 600, utilising a team of volunteers and a sophisticated people management system to make sure everyone got vaccinated safely and on time. We had finally reached maximum capacity.
In 2016, the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) wanted to replicate the event for the annual Day of Immunology. They held a very small event (around 16 people vaccinated) in a tent at Federation Square. Subsequent to that event, the Immunisation Coalition became involved, providing media and organisational advice, which saw the event move to the Melbourne Town Hall in 2017 and became known as the Vaccination Cafe. The vaccinations were again guided by Kerryn Lajoie, and the numbers increased to about 100. In 2018 the IC became fully involved and the numbers grew to more than 600. In 2019, almost 1200 people were vaccinated at the MTH, again reaching full capacity.
In 2020 with the arrival of COVID-19, it was decided that there was too much risk in holding a vaccination event at Graduate House, as the layout of the building was not conducive to safe COVID-19 practices, particularly with attendees that may have fallen in to higher risk groups. We did however proceed with a COVID-19 safe vaccination clinic at Melbourne Town Hall in May 2020, with around 500 people vaccinated safely and efficiently. This was in large part due to the exceptional organisation by Kerryn Lajoie’s Vaccinat8Work team, and a wonderful group of volunteers from the WEHI.
It was decided recently that the annual vaccination day at Graduate House had ran its course, and that the MTH vaccination day would now be the primary event going forward, creating the template for all future events during the pandemic era.
The MTH Vaccination Café…
Many have wondered why the Melbourne Town Hall event was called the Vaccination Cafe. This is because we worked in partnership with St. Ali’s in Melbourne who provided, free of charge, a coffee cart, baristas, and their excellent coffee. This was available to everyone who received an influenza vaccine on the day. We thank them sincerely for their contribution to this important event.