Queensland has announced its plan for a series of specialised “vaccination hubs” to be set up within weeks across the state, providing Australians with some insight as to how the process might work across the country.
The state’s health chief, Dr Jeanette Young, announced six COVID-19 vaccination sites will be rolled out first in the main cities where incoming travellers are in quarantine: Cairns, Townsville, the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane’s north and south.
“We will start there with our first six hubs, then as we get those newer vaccines that can be distributed more easily … we’ll be able to spread that vaccine throughout the state,” she said, while confirming discussions with the government over the sites had taken place.
Frontline and quarantine workers will take first priority – about 170,000 – with Dr Young confirming jabs will start immediately once the Federal Government makes supplies of the Pfizer vaccine available, which is expected in late February. You can see the full update here.
A further 510,000 residents and staff in aged and disability care will also take priority.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses taken 21 days apart.
The Pfizer jab, which requires specific cold temperature storage, will be limited to hospitals and specialised areas, while the AstraZeneca vaccine can be administered in GP clinics.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be available from March with most Aussies expected to take that shot considering it will be produced within Australia.
The Federal government has remained relatively quiet on the rollout plan but says it is “currently consulting with the states and territories, and medical experts on how a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed”.
“This includes setting out the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to implement a COVID-19 vaccine program in Australia in 2021.
“The rollout program will depend on the nature and test results of the vaccines approved for use.”
But it has said that “initially, doses will be made available for priority groups in 30 – 50 hospital hubs in urban and rural locations around Australia”.
“Vaccination teams”, managed by the government, will also attend aged care and disability services.
Australian Medical Association Victorian president Julian Rait told The Agethat Melbourne will see “Pfizer metropolitan vaccine hubs and are set to be responsible for storing the doses in special freezers as well as running their own vaccination clinics”.
While operational details were “still being finalised”, sporting ovals, public hospitals and football stadiums were among the sites being considered.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia was looking for a “late February” rollout, rather than the previous plan outlined earlier in the month, due to production issues from Pfizer.
“We’ve set out indicative time frames where we would hope to commence in mid to late February. But that will obviously change and be subject to any impacts on production schedules overseas,” Mr Morrison said earlier this month.
While the country still awaits supply of the vaccine, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland was “getting ready”.
Queensland health chief Dr Young echoed those comments. “It depends when we get the vaccine, so we know from the Commonwealth that they expect to get the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine towards the end of February,” she said.
“We hope to be able to start vaccination then, at the end of February-early March, and then as we get those other doses of additional vaccines, as soon as we get them, we’ve got the systems in place to rapidly get them out.”
Queensland recorded no new coronavirus cases on Tuesday but viral fragments of the virus were found at wastewater treatment plants at Cairns South, Cairns Marlin Coast, Nambour, Maroochydore, Pulgul at Hervey Bay, Condon at Townsville, and Yeppoon.
As it stands, Australia has purchased 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and a further 53 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Monday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved the Pfizer vaccine “following a thorough and independent review”, but it is yet to approve the rest.