COVID vaccine rolls out

The start date for Mount Gambier’s COVID-19 vaccination hub is yet to be announced, despite the vaccine being administered over the border at Portland. While SA’s initial hubs at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre opened last week, a start date for the Limestone Coast remains unknown.

Limestone Coast Local Health Network Chief Executive Officer Ngaire Buchanan said the hubs were key sites for the initial implementation of the vaccine program. “Additional clinics will be established around the state for future stages of the vaccination roll out,” she said.

The initial stage (Phase 1a) will vaccinate key frontline health care workers, quarantine and border workers and residential aged care and disability staff. Hubs will be located at Lyell McEwin Hospital, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Riverland General Hospital in Berri, Mount Gambier Hospital, Whyalla Hospital, Port Pirie Hospital and Port Augusta Hospital.

Meanwhile, the first COVID-19 vaccinations in south-west Victoria were administered in Portland earlier this week. A vaccination outreach team from Barwon South West Public Health Unit (run by Barwon Health) was in Portland to work in partnership with Portland District Health (PDH), to vaccinate healthcare workers, public sector aged care residents and port workers, in line with the phase 1a priority rollout.

Barwon South West’s COVID-19 vaccination program started last month with public aged care residents, frontline healthcare workers and port workers in Geelong receiving the Pfizer vaccine. PDH chief executive Christine Giles said Portland was one of the first places in regional Australia to start the vaccination program, with 75 doses delivered on Monday.

“We’re high on the priority list because of the port so we have become one of the first rural health services to start the vaccination program,” Ms Giles said. “This is good news for our region and we will continue to work closely with Barwon Health’s Barwon South West Public Health Unit to ensure more vaccines are delivered in Portland as they become available.”

The former walk-in fever clinic at PDH has been converted to a vaccination clinic. A dedicated area has been established for storing and mixing the injections, under the supervision of the specialist outreach team, before they are delivered to the vaccination area.

The PDH drive-through COVID19 testing clinic remains available if needed and Ms Giles said surveillance testing of port workers was continuing despite there being no active cases in the region. The vaccines will be brought to Portland by the Barwon Health outreach team and stored under prescribed conditions.

“Our staff have been doing a lot of work in the background to get ready and we’re looking forward to playing our part in delivering this vaccine to our local community,” Ms Giles said. PDH Urgent Care Centre and COVID testing staff will be the first health workers to receive the local vaccination. It will be a phased rollout to ensure there is no disruption to health services in case of adverse reactions.

PDH immunisation nursing staff have received specialised training to be part of the delivery program. Ms Giles said that as more Pfizer stock was made available, PDH would work with the Barwon South West Public Health Unit to expand the vaccination program to the district.

“Our front-line staff and aged care residents are eager to receive the vaccine; however, this process will take some time and we ask for patience as the full schedule is yet to be finalised,” she said. About 3000 people in the Barwon South West region will be vaccinated as part of the immunisation program’s first phase.

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