Which Northern Rivers towns will be first to get COVID jabs?
Ahead of next week's North Coast COVID-19 vaccine rollout to residents of aged care facilities, health authorities are also working with local general practices to prepare for future stages of the rollout.
It is understood aged care facilities at Alstonville and Ballina will be among the first to roll up their sleeves and get the jab - although the names of which facilities has not yet been revealed.
While the Australian COVID-19 vaccination program is starting next week, with the first supply of vaccines being distributed as part of Phase 1a, it will be months before everyone in our region will access vaccines.
Healthy North Coast is the local organisation delivering the Australian Government's Primary Health Network program, and is helping to co-ordinate parts of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in our region.
As details of the COVID-19 vaccination program continue to develop, HNC chief executive Julie Sturgess said they were also supporting residential aged care facilities with timely information, and planning support for Northern Rivers communities.
Ms Sturgess said the government was ensuring those who were particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of the COVID-19 virus received the earliest protection, so priority was being given to older people living in residential aged care facilities.
This first phase of the vaccination program using Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine and being delivered by Healthcare Australia is set to start next week, including on the North Coast, and the Department of Health is supporting staff to prepare.
An information and readiness toolkit has been sent to aged care facilities to help those who will be part of this early-stage rollout.
Ms Sturgess said the Phase 1a Vaccination rollout was being managed centrally by the government, which has announced the first locations.
Meanwhile, vaccination rollout to frontline health care worker subgroups for prioritisation was being managed by NSW Health.
Phase 1b GPs
HNC said a limited number of general practices have been selected to participate in Phase 1b of the rollout, scheduled to commence in March with the TGA provisionally approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and will play a critical role in protecting North Coast residents against the COVID-19 virus.
More than 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.
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.
Ms Sturgess emphasises the importance of maintaining hygiene practices, physical distancing and testing for COVID-19 throughout 2021.