Victorian hotel quarantine and airport workers will be among the first people in the state to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the Pfizer rollout begins next week.
The PfizerBioNTech vaccine, which was the first COVID-19 vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia, will be rolled out to priority groups across Australia from Monday.
While authorities have for weeks flagged at-risk workers will be the first to get vaccinated in the 1a phase of the rollout, today the Victorian government confirmed more details about how the first stage will work.
Here’s what we know.
Who will get the vaccine first?
In Victoria, workers who are most likely to come into direct contact with people who could have coronavirus will be vaccinated first.
The 1a phase will cover hotel quarantine workers, airport and port workers, high-risk frontline health staff, and public sector residential aged care staff and residents, the state government said in a statement today.
Health professionals will start delivering doses of the Pfizer vaccine to those groups from Monday.
“Our priority is to support the Commonwealth to make sure that the vaccine is administered to workers at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 as quickly and safely possible,” Health Minister Martin Foley said in a statement.
“Whether they work in hotel quarantine, at the airport, or a specialist COVID ward — we need to keep Victorians most at risk of infection safe, while they continue to keep Victorians safe.”
How many vaccines will Victoria get?
The Commonwealth government has allocated 12,000 vaccines to Victoria for week one of the 1a phase of the rollout.
Victoria will get a total of 59,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the first four weeks, the state government said.
Who will be rolling out the vaccines?
Vaccination “hubs” operated by three public health services in Melbourne — Austin Health, Monash Health and Western Health — will deliver the first vaccines next week.
Alfred Health will also work with the Monash Health hub during the rollout.
Barwon Health, which provides health services in the Geelong and Surf Coast regions, will vaccinate port of entry workers in Portland.
The regional health service will also start a public sector residential aged care program from next week, and trial an outreach model that will be implemented across regional Victoria.
The Commonwealth government will be responsible for vaccinations in the private residential aged care sector, Mr Foley said.
Other hubs in regional Victoria, at Albury-Wodonga Health, Ballarat Health Services, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, and Latrobe Regional Hospital, will get up and running as more vaccine doses arrive.
Where are the vaccines being rolled out?
The Health Minister said much of the vaccination work will be conducted on-site at the dedicated vaccination hub sites — but not all of it.
The health services will also be administering vaccines in hotel quarantine settings, at the airport, or through mobile outreach teams.
Hotel quarantine workers will be vaccinated during their normal shifts, COVID-19 testing commander Weimar said.
Western Health will be setting up a hub at Melbourne Airport for “airside” workers who have the greatest risk of coming into contact with overseas arrivals, the Health Minister said.
More community-based sites likely to be set up when stage two of the vaccination program gets underway, Mr Foley said.
When will the next stage begin?
No date has been set for the 1b phase of the rollout, which will deliver doses to the elderly, emergency services and those particularly susceptible to a life-threatening case of COVID-19.
It’s expected that it will commence later in March, Mr Foley said.
What does setting up a vaccine hub involve?
Midwife Kylie Roper will be among the first Victorians to get the Pfizer vaccination on Monday, when she’ll also be leading one of the teams delivering vaccinations at Melbourne Airport.
Ms Roper said an international lounge had been transformed into a “state-of-the-art” vaccination hub in the space of a week.
“We’ve got 10 cubicles, we’ve got walls up around all of those cubicles, we’ve got an area for a waiting space, so it’s all false walls that have gone up, we’ve got a lockable area for our vaccine to come in from the Sunshine Hospital,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Ms Roper said the vaccines would be defrosted at Sunshine Hospital before being brought to the site, where they could be stored between 2-8 degrees Celsius for five days.
Does this mean we can lift the restrictions?
“This is a very important milestone — arguably the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Mr Foley said.
“But that does not mitigate the need for us to continue all of the measures that we have in place — social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitising.
“All of these measures will remain important for some time yet.”
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