Some Canberrans will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine from next Monday (22 February) after the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine landed in Australia today (15 February).
The vaccine will be rolled out in five phases, the first of which will cover around 4,000 frontline workers in Canberra, including quarantine and border workers.
Canberra Health Services (CHS) will be leading the vaccination effort in the ACT and expects to initially vaccinate around 1,000 workers a week. Eligible workers will receive an email this week prompting them to make a booking.
The vaccination is not mandatory for any frontline worker or health staff at this stage.
The Garran surge centre at the Canberra Hospital will be used as the initial vaccine hub due to the vaccine’s storage requirements.
The Canberra hub at Garran will also be used to vaccinate healthcare workers from Queanbeyan and Yass under an agreement with NSW due to the limited availability of Pfizer storage facilities across the country. All associated costs will be dealt with under existing agreements with NSW in regards to health care in the region.
GPs, pharmacies and ACT Government-run clinics will all become part of the rollout strategy in the future as more vaccines – primarily the AstraZeneca jab – become available and approved for use in Australia.
Around 62 staff are on hand to assist with the vaccine’s rollout but this can be expanded at short notice, CHS CEO Bernadette McDonald said.
“We have increased our recruitment in the past few weeks,” she said.
“We do already have some staff that do immunisation and vaccinations as their core interests, so they are really well trained, however, we are putting all staff through the same training program to ensure consistency in the approach and process across the vaccination hubs.
“We will create a pool of flexible staff who are all trained so if we need to flex up capacity we can.”
The Commonwealth Government will be coordinating the vaccination of aged and disability residential care facilities.
The second phase, Phase 1B, will then begin in March and will include adults over the age of 70, Indigenous people over the age of 55, adults with an underlying health condition, and critical and high-risk workers.
Adults under the age of 50 will be the last people to receive the vaccine and will be eligible to receive the jab from July 2021.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said Canberrans should expect COVID-safe practices to continue for the foreseeable future due to limited evidence as to how the vaccine affects the transmission of the virus.
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine must be taken at least 21 days apart and an individual will not be fully immunised until seven days after the second jab.