A year ago, Maddy Williams was just starting her first job as a registered nurse. Today she became the first Canberran to get the jab as stage 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in Australia.
The 22-year-old started working in the Garran testing clinic and will now administer the vaccine as the surge centre becomes Canberra’s only Pfizer vaccine hub – one of 16 Pfizer hubs around the country.
It has been repurposed due to its proximity to the Canberra Hospital, which is able to store the Pfizer vaccine at between -80 and -60 degrees.
Around 50 jabs will be administered from the site today (22 February), increasing to around 250 a day by the middle of the week. The process of inoculating 4000 frontline health workers in the ACT as part of the first phase is expected to take around a month.
The vaccine is not mandatory for frontline health staff, and there will be no consequences for not getting the jab, but there will be a risk assessment of unvaccinated staff accessing some areas if an outbreak were to occur, Canberra Health Services CEO Bernadette McDonald said.
Aged care and disability residential care facilities across nine Canberra suburbs will also begin receiving the vaccine today. The Commonwealth Government is responsible for administering the vaccines in these facilities, with around 1000 doses being delivered over the next two weeks.
The first stage of the vaccine’s distribution in the ACT will be split 50-50 between frontline workers at the Garran centre and aged care and disability facilities, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.
“We will continue to establish those processes and be ready for the increase in the availability of vaccines in another two or three weeks’ time,” she said.
“We will expect to see that ramp up, as it will nationally, from about week three. We may get double the amount and so on.
“As we start to see the AstraZeneca vaccine come online, that gives us greater flexibility about where the vaccinations can be delivered, and we will then start to see the Commonwealth working with GPs to start establishing some GP vaccination clinics.”
Around 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab will be rolled out each week from the end of March after being provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration last week.
Just over 60 extra health staff have been hired to distribute the vaccine and maintain the ACT’s testing capabilities.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the vaccine rollout this week was unlikely to alleviate pressure on the ACT’s hotel quarantine regime.
“Even if people have been vaccinated, if they are coming into hotel quarantine they still need all of the support people would normally need so that does not take the pressure off or increase the capacity of the staff,” she said.
“[The staff] still need to be providing those daily check-ins to make sure that people are coping, that their physical and mental health are OK, that they have everything that they need, and we still need to be doing that compliance and security at our hotel site.”
For more information about the vaccine and its distribution in the ACT, visit www.covid19.act.gov.au.