Hundreds queue for hours and some camp overnight at pop-up vaccine clinic in Sydney’s Lakemba | Sydney


Hundreds of people in the south-west Sydney suburb of Lakemba lined up for hours on Tuesday in a kilometre-long queue to be vaccinated at a pop-up clinic run by the Lebanese Muslim Association, amid a push by authorities to improve vaccine uptake in western Sydney.

Ahmed Malas, who has been running the clinic, said some people camped out overnight in the hope they would get one of the few Pfizer doses available.

“The clinic opens up at 10am, but people today, for example, camped outside the [Lebanese Muslim Association]. They were out here from 9pm last night, they slept on the street, waiting for Pfizer,” he said.

“People are realising that the only way out of this lockdown, and the only way to go back to work, is to get vaccinated. So some people might not even agree with getting vaccinated, but they know they have to get the vaccine to go to work.”

Locals lined up outside the Lakemba mosque, some sitting on folding chairs and assembled crates, while others resorted to perching on the kerb, patiently waiting their turn.

The Lebanese Muslim Association opened its clinic for a second three-day run on Sunday while the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA remains the epicentre of the outbreak.

People line up at a pop-up Covid vaccination clinic at the Lebanese Muslim Association in Lakemba.
People line up at a pop-up Covid vaccination clinic at the Lebanese Muslim Association in Lakemba. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

The association initially ran a three-day pop-up vaccination clinic in late July, one of the few pop-ups to offer both AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

There was so much local demand, it decided to run it again, with lines on Tuesday reaching over a kilometre long.

Tamer, a local construction worker, was waiting in line after his boss asked him to get vaccinated so he could return to work.

“My manager called me and said: ‘If you don’t get vaccinated today, we might lose work. It’s better if you go get vaccinated.’ So I just said I might as well get it,” he said.

“I don’t want to take it. But I have to, because I can’t work without it, I hope I don’t get any side effects, I’m just taking whatever is available – it’s in the hands of God.”

Shokot Ali, another local construction worker who’d been in line for four hours, said he had come down because he heard of the clinic from his friends.

“I came in the morning at around 6am and the line was huge. People having been waiting here for hours for their vaccine. I’ve been waiting for four hours myself,” he said.

“I feel frustrated, but it’s not too bad. I’m happy to be getting vaccinated – doesn’t matter Pfizer or AstraZeneca, whatever I need to work.”

Malas said one of the challenges the clinic was facing was the lack of Pfizer doses, having been allocated very few.

“People are wanting to take the vaccine, however the overwhelming majority do want Pfizer. If the Pfizer supply was to increase, the uptake would be significantly higher,” he said.

The organisation has proceeded to work through community doubts about the AstraZeneca vaccine and found success in convincing families to take up those doses.

“You traverse the queue, you speak to a doctor, and that’s how it works. Today, we converted 130 people to AstraZeneca,” he said.

“It’s taken one person in nearly every family to go and get the jab before the rest of the family comes across. And it happened to me. I posted a photo of myself getting vaccinated in the family WhatsApp group and they initially freaked out, but by the afternoon they were here, getting the jab.”

Feroza Yasmin, a health worker helping service the pop-up clinic, said there has been backlash from some people frustrated at the lack of Pfizer.

“Some people appreciate me, but some people are very rude to me. I even get text messages from the community that are very rude. And their main question is why there isn’t more Pfizer.

“I love to work with my community and others, but now it’s a very challenging time.”

Shomon Hussein said he was hoping for a Pfizer jab, but had reached the point where he would take any alternative.

“We came today to get the Pfizer, but there is no Pfizer, so I don’t know. I’m going to try with AstraZeneca. What can I do? It’s very upsetting. I’m very frustrated,” he said.

“My boss last week called me [and] said if I don’t get vaccinated there would be no work, so I had to come down.”


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Sasha Terry