REVEALED: Road map for our local vaccine delivery
The road map for how locals will get vaccinated in the first stage of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out has been explained by Healthy North Coast, the local organisation delivering the Australian Government's public health network program.
While the rollout is due to begin this week for frontline workers and older people living in residential aged care facilities, it may be many months for the general population to receive the vaccine.
Healthy North Coast CEO Julie Sturgess emphasised the importance of maintaining hygiene practices, physical distancing and testing for COVID-19 throughout 2021.
"As the COVID-19 vaccination program gets set to start, and despite the relatively low numbers of local cases we've experienced in our region, we can't let our guard down," Ms Sturgess said.
"We need to remain vigilant about preventing the spread of the virus. If you're experiencing even mild symptoms, make sure you get tested early at one of our local testing centres."
The government is ensuring those who are particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of the COVID-19 virus receive the earliest protection, so priority is being given to older people living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs).
This first phase of the vaccination program using Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine and being delivered by Healthcare Australia is set to start next week on the North Coast - and the Department of Health is supporting RACF staff to prepare.
While there may be many keen to be among the first to be protected, just two North Coast locations will be included in the first week of the vaccination program: Alstonville and Ballina.
Vaccinations will continue across the area in the following weeks for Phase 1a of the trial.
In the next phase, general practices selected to participate in Phase 1b of the rollout, scheduled to commence in March with the TGA provisionally approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, will play a critical role in protecting North Coast residents against the COVID-19 virus.
According to the spokesman, over 50 per cent of all accredited North Coast general practices recently submitted an EOI to be a part of this first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"Initially, only a small number of general practices will participate in providing large-scale vaccination clinics," they said.
"In consultation with Healthy North Coast, the Australian Government's Department of Health will select practices based on key criteria including, but not limited to, location, population coverage and access, readiness and service infrastructure."
"The government has indicated that over time all accredited general practices will have the opportunity to provide the vaccine. The majority of general practices that have expressed interest to support the vaccination rollout program will commence vaccination from Phase 2 onwards."
Established GP-run respiratory clinics, which have played a critical role in providing local COVID-19 assessment and testing, and Aboriginal health services and pharmacies will also participate in the vaccination program's future stages.
Through local data modelling, Healthy North Coast has analysed population health information and primary care service availability to help plan for the local delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination program. This modelling helps to assess our areas of high need and provides evidence for recommending priority areas.