BAPS Mandir vaccination centre brings community together

By Our Reporter
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS Temple) vaccination clinic

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 COVID-19 vaccine is the most important message every leader around Australia, the Chief Medical Officers and epidemiologist are emphasising.

In its bid to be a part of this change, 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.

From September 3, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS Temple) vaccination clinic started booking appointments, clocking over 800 plus 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, according to a press release.

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 being 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 Ishita Patel, BAPS Community Engagement and 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 and 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 added, “With the guidance from our spiritual leaders, the BAPS Swamis, BAPS has teams of volunteers keen to provide seva or self-less service to support the congregation and wider community getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”

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.

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