27 January 2021

Canberra Hospital expands storage capacity in preparation for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

| Dominic Giannini
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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says vaccine storage facilities at the Canberra Hospital will be expanded. Photo: Region Media.

Vaccine storage facilities at the Canberra Hospital (TCH) will be expanded to better facilitate the rollout of the COVID-19 jab in the ACT.

The ACT Government has just put aside $23.5 million in next month’s budget to distribute the vaccine, $4.5 million of which will be capital funding for physical infrastructure and IT, and includes the expansion of storage capabilities, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

The vaccine was provisionally approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration on Monday (25 January).

While the exact number of doses that will initially be administered from TCH is not yet known – except that it will be “in the thousands” – only around 30 to 50 hospitals can administer the Pfizer vaccine as it needs to be stored at -70 degrees.

READ MORE ACT Budget to boost healthcare, vaccine rollout with $63 million injection

The ACT will then gradually increase its vaccination regime to cover hundreds of thousands of Canberrans by the end of the year.

“We are still working with the Commonwealth to determine how many vaccines get distributed to each location,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“The Commonwealth is taking responsibility for the storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccines [and] for the cold chain management for that. Part of the capital funding we have announced is for expanding the storage for other vaccines.

“One of the considerations is with flu vaccinations. How do you align your COVID vaccination with your flu vaccination, we also need to continue to store the vaccines that we currently do.”

The rollout was originally scheduled to begin in mid-February before being pushed back until the end of the month. It will first be administered to frontline workers, aged care staff and residents, and quarantine and border workers.

The first of five phases will cover up to 1.4 million people nationally.

READ MORE: ACT Health works towards vaccine rollout after Pfizer jab gets provisional approval

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the cost of the vaccine’s rollout would be split 50-50 between the Commonwealth Government and the states and territories, and that the ACT is ready to scale up its investment in its administration.

Mr Barr said he did not want to speculate on the future costs of the vaccine rollout for the ACT Government other than that it would sit somewhere between the millions and tens of millions of dollars.

“I do not anticipate it being a small amount, nor do I anticipate it being an astronomical amount,” he said,

“But we will provide further detail on that once it becomes apparent to us.”.

More information on the COVID-19 vaccine is available from ACT Health.

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