NORMAL senior year rites of passage like sitting in a crowded exam room, valedictory dinners and awards nights may be a step closer for the region's Year 12 students, with hundreds booked in for a COVID-19 vaccine from today as part of a state-wide blitz.
Around 400 south-west students will be vaccinated today across South West Healthcare's Warrnambool and Camperdown vaccination clinics.
Brauer College principal Jane Boyle said it was "lovely" to see all the schools in the district - including independent, Catholic and state schools - working together to coordinate the vaccines for their Year 11 and 12 students.
Around 80 of her students are booked in this morning.
Quite a few have already received their first dose.
"We're all working together in this tricky space," Ms Boyle said.
Parents have thrown their support behind the vaccines locally, with some driving as far as Ararat and Hamilton to access a vaccine for their children.
"They've really shown high levels of support to get their children as ready as they can be for their final exams," she said.
"The support and flexibility of the community has been amazing."
While some students have thrived in remote learning, many more are struggling.
"We're making sure we're keeping in contact with those students who might decide it's all too difficult and keeping them engaged in the process," Ms Boyle said.
"We're ringing any students who might be slipping in enthusiasm and some who have needed the support of the college have worked from here where possible."
The small senior cohort at King's College is all booked in for its 18 vaccines today.
"I think this is going to bring a lot more certainty for students at the end of the year, not just for exams but for the final celebrations that Year 12 students look forward to like valedictory and presentation nights," King's College principal Allister Rouse said.
"This year has been challenging, more so than last year when you think about the students who had Year 11 in lockdowns and three lockdowns this year.
"It's had a fairly significant interruption to their schooling."
It's going to make a difference not just for exams but for the final celebrations that Year 12 students look forward to like valedictory and presentation nights.
Of Emmanuel College's 160 Year 12 students, 50 will be vaccinated today, 34 are already booked in, 30 are already vaccinated and eight declined.
Of the Year 11 students completing Unit 3/4 subjects, 25 will be vaccinated through the program, 11 already had an appointment, 14 were already vaccinated and two declined.
Outside Warrnambool's city centre, 25 Hawkesdale students are looking forward to receiving their vaccine on campus this afternoon.
Hawkesdale P-12 School principal Colan Distel said it was a positive for the small community.
"We're very excited, it's really nice to have that service," he said. "We're hoping we can do that for some of our other students.
"The students are doing the best they can under the circumstances, what we need is not to dwell on the bad and look at the opportunities out there.
"We're hoping once they're all vaccinated they'll be able to sit their exams."
Despite the Premier's announcement that some restrictions may ease in regional Victoria next week, south-west principals are not optimistic for a return to the classroom in term three.
"You adapt as best you can but there's nothing like learning face-to-face," Mr Distel said.
From next week it's expected the region's VCE teachers and examiners who haven't yet received a vaccine will be given priority.
Further doses will be available next week for any students who were unable to book this week due to supply constraints, SWH COVID-19 coordinator Toinette Hutchins said.
"Many students have already been proactive prior to this blitz and have sourced other appointments," Ms Hutchins said.
"We are liaising with all of the schools to ensure we can vaccinate all eligibility and priority groups."
The demand for vaccines in Warrnambool has not waned, with 1647 first Pfizer doses and 328 second doses administered at SWH Warrnambool vaccination hub.
There were 378 first doses and 627 second doses of AstraZeneca delivered.
Strong demand continues to come from all members of the community "regardless of age" Ms Hutchins said.
The latest announcement today slashing the AstraZeneca dose interval in half from 12 to six weeks was welcomed by SWH.
"We have enough supply of AstraZeneca vaccines to be able to handle this latest change and we can continue to take walk-ins for AstraZeneca for people who wish to both receive their first and second dose.
"Anyone who had a booked appointment for their second dose of AstraZeneca at 12 weeks is welcome to cancel and rebook in order to bring it forward."
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