Many northern Victorian farmers are embracing COVID-19 vaccinations in the wake of news that the state government is mandating the jabs by November 26.
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Happy to have jabs: Moglonemby farmers Manny and Amanda Schembri are both about to be fully vaccinated and don't have an issue with it.

Although some farmers have told Country News they were irritated by being told they had to have the vaccinations, many have voluntarily joined the queues and quite a few were double vaccinated already.

The VFF was not happy farmers were roped into the mandate without consultation.

VFF president Emma Germano said farmers were already experiencing huge pressures with ongoing labour shortages and this threatened to make that worse.

“To give us under two weeks to get the vaccine when we’ve been raising issues with its access for months is ludicrous.”

The VFF is seeking further information from the Victorian Government on issues such as vaccine supply, access, COVID-19 workplace laws and privacy rights.

Gisborne farmer Jeff Steeper has been zig-zagging across central Victoria recently in search of the perfect affordable Australian White ram.

When talking to Country News at a ram sale in Echuca, Mr Steeper said he’d already been doubled vaxxed before the announcement was made.

Cattle and sheep farmer Luke Piechowiak from Heathcote was also double vaxxed.

“I got the vaccine a while ago. It made me feel more prepared for what’s coming,” Mr Piechowiak said.

Michael Speirs and Kylie Zelley from Horsham were both doubled vaxxed before the announcement.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Ms Zelley said.[

Yalca farmers Neil Jackson and Trish Hopkins had both received their first jabs by the time the announcement was made.

“At first I wasn’t fussed about getting it but we wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere,” Mr Jackson said.

“Everyone is running around vowing they’ll never take it but they’ll never be able to go anywhere and their tune will change. Trish has a kid in the Territory and we’re hoping to go see them at Christmas.”

Ms Hopkins said the vaccination process was easier than expected.

“It was easy as. Cobram has a medical walk-in clinic and they were just lovely.”

Mr Jackson said he’d assumed the process would have been much harder.

“You see them all lining up in the city but I suppose it’s nothing like that out here. You walk straight in,” he said.

Nhill farmers Max and Valda Smith had received their first doses and were scheduled for their second on October 28.

“We go to Horsham to get the vaccination,” Mrs Smith said.

“I think it should be mandatory.”

Mr Smith said the dilemma was either (a) get vaccinated and resume normal life or (b) refuse the jab and never cross a state border again.

Lana Wishart from Mead attended the same Echuca ram sale as the Gisbourne, Heathcote, Horsham, Yalca and Nhill farmers.

“I’m fully vaxxed, but I’m a nurse so I had to get it by September 1.”

Ms Wishart said people in the Cohuna area had easy access to the COVID jab thanks to the district health clinic and other local clinics putting in extra hours.

Manny Schembri from Moglonemby (north of Euroa), said last week he had already had his first shot and was preparing for the second one next week.

“We have been lucky, and it seems reasonable to do this. You can’t be selfish about it. It’s about the whole society. We have to move forward.”

He wasn’t surprised at the government mandate because he had predicted a move like this about 18 months ago, and expected the requirement to eventually come to all industries.

People working in agriculture are required to have their first vaccination by October 15 and their second by November 26.

Farmers say no relief is in sight.

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