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Australians could potentially pick up a sizzling sausage when getting their Covid jab with hardware giant Bunnings offering its car parks as mass vaccination hubs.

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Bunnings has offered to help the federal government with its vaccine rollout and health experts say the proposal could be an effective way of distributing vaccines in suburbs while engaging local communities.

National cabinet this week agreed to fast track vaccinations and overhaul the initial rollout strategy that has been plagued by delays related to logistics, supply issues and blood clotting concerns.

New South Wales and Victoria have independently incorporated mass vaccination sites for over-50s into their rollouts; while the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Monday said mass vaccination hubs would be suited for an anticipated “12-week sprint” ahead of Christmas once further Pfizer supplies and the Novavax vaccine become available.

© Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images Bunnings car parks were successfully used for Covid testing and epidemiologists say the well-known chain is ideally positioned to offer vaccinations to a large section of the community.

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Bunnings warehouses hosted testing clinics in carparks in the early weeks of the pandemic. It has now joined Australia’s business community, including the National Australia Bank and the Business Council of Australia, offering to help speed up the vaccine rollout and reopen the economy.

Bunnings’ chief operating officer, Deb Poole, said the company was open to offering its premises as mass vaccination hubs if the government requested assistance.

“We’ve previously supported the government and the community by hosting Covid-19 testing in some of our store car parks and we’re always open to discussing further support directly with the government,” Poole said when asked by Guardian Australia about the possibility of hosting vaccination hubs.

Using Bunnings car parks to vaccinate Australians en masse has the backing of epidemiologists who note the suburban chain is often considered Australia’s most trusted brand.

Hassan Vally, an associate professor in public health and an epidemiologist with La Trobe University in Melbourne, said hosting mass vaccination centres in Bunnings car parks could provide a “nudge” to large sections of the population who would visit the stores and see jabs being administered.

“Everyone in the population seems to end up at Bunnings with some frequency …they’re convenient for people to get to,” Vally told Guardian Australia.

“Most people haven’t seen a vaccination occur in person, so if you’re going into a Bunnings a few times and you keep passing the vaccinations, then the next time you’re on your way out with your potting mix, you’ll go up and ask.”

Vally also noted the “credibility heuristic” – a rule of thumb concerning vaccine hesitancy where epidemiologists observe “we trust people we can relate to – people in our social network”.

Vally said religious and community leaders were best placed to address vaccine hesitancy but Bunnings stores – which host sausage sizzles with local community organisations – would have an advantage when it came to promoting Covid vaccination.

“If people go to Bunnings and can get their sausage sandwich after their vaccine on the way out, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Prof Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said once Australia’s vaccine supplies significantly increased using Bunnings car parks could help “normalise the vaccination process”.

She pointed out that mass vaccination hubs identified by state governments so far were mostly in city centres and Bunnings’ suburban locations would make logistical sense when rolling out Pfizer vaccines en masse later in the year.

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That’s because one way of avoiding wastage once multi-dose vials are open is to offer the vaccine to anyone nearby who can quickly come in for a jab.

“For testing, Bunnings car parks worked really, as people could get tested in their cars,” Bennett said. “[It’s] an identifiable site, it’s got the space and can be adapted for this.”

She said a sterile environment and waiting area would need to be cordoned off to administer jabs and provide recipients an area to wait the required 15 minutes following their injection.

Bennett also said such a vaccination site would work best if it used a combination of bookings and walk-in appointments to avoid vaccine wastage.

“Bunnings is an identifiable site, it’s got the space and can be adapted for this. People are comfortable there and this type of plan would leverage Bunnings’ presence in the community.”

The Guardian contacted the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, for comment. His spokesperson referred to general comments about the vaccine rollout changes made by the prime minister.