Local disability service providers have been helping to lift Cessnock's COVID inoculation rates, as NSW prepares to 'open up' to fully-vaccinated people within weeks.
Finding Yellow and Believe Services have held vaccination hubs in recent weeks, providing an opportunity for people with disability, their carers and support workers to receive the Pfizer jab.
About 200 people are now fully-vaxxed thanks to the Finding Yellow hub, with a further 120 receiving their first jab last week.
Finding Yellow business services advisor Elasea Welsman said demand was higher than expected.
"We planned to do 80 vaccinations over two days at our first hub; we ended up doing 196, and had to turn people away because we had no more doses available," she said.
Ms Welsman said holding the vaccination hub was a way for the organisation - originally known as Cessnock Hostel - to give back to the community.
"Initially we were approached about an in-reach vaccination program for people living in our Supported Independent Living Homes, their carers and our staff," she said.
"After talking to the vaccination provider, we decided to host the hub in our office instead, providing an opportunity for other people with disability, their carers and support workers to get their vaccination there as well.
"Finding Yellow came from the Cessnock community - in the 1970s, a group of families fundraised and lobbied to build our original home, which was then called Cessnock Hostel.
"Since then we've supported people in the Cessnock LGA, and they've continued to support us.
"For us, hosting a vaccination hub to help people who in the community who are classed as 'high-risk' get a Pfizer vaccination, which they might otherwise have been waiting months for, was a way to give back to the community that started us."
Believe Services compliance manager Crystal Price said 80 people have now received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at their on-site clinic.
"We've pushed hard to have this clinic. Originally we had it organised for our staff and participants," Ms Price said.
"Other disability providers around the Hunter heard about the clinic and we were receiving calls pleading for appointments in our hub.
"We advocated for additional doses and were successful in over doubling our initial allocation."
Ms Price said Believe Services was proud to be able to offer this opportunity to the community.
"We know that COVID is here. We can't go back, only forward and it appears the way to move in the right direction is through vaccination," she said.
"It comes down to the safety of our workers, and the future for our participants.
"We strive to work with them towards their best form on independence and felt delaying their opportunity to receive the vaccine also meant delaying them achieving their goals.
The rate of fully-vaccinated people in the Cessnock local government area has jumped by more than nine percent in a fortnight, with 31.9 per cent of Cessnock LGA residents now fully vaccinated, and 63.4 per cent having received their first dose (as of September 13).
(NOTE: The figures published in today's Advertiser were the best available at the time we went to press).
But the LGA still lags behind most of the state, with some parts of Sydney more than 20 percent ahead.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr has written to the Premier and Prime Minister to request more Pfizer vaccines be allocated to the area, and Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent will raise the issue in a mayoral minute at the next council meeting on September 22.
Cr Pynsent is urging currently unvaccinated residents to book in their vaccination as soon as possible as the state heads towards reopening.
"It's been a tough couple of years for our LGA. I'd love to see the majority of Cessnock residents out and about enjoying our beautiful region again," he said.
"Vaccination is the only way forward and I encourage anyone who has not yet booked to do so at their earliest convenience."
Check your eligibility and make an appointment at healthdirect.gov.au.
Australian Community Media, the publisher of the Advertiser, is running a national campaign called VAXTHENATION to encourage those eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible to help protect our standard of health, lift our quality of living, and boost our economy. Read more here.