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Questions over vaccine rollout

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MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has appealed to the federal and state governments to provide more information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people in the electorate.

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech is the first to receive regulatory approval in Australia after undergoing a complete assessment and approval process.

Shipments of the vaccine arrived in Australia yesterday.

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Mr Mitchell said he was concerned about the accessibility of the vaccine for Mitchell Shire and northern suburbs residents.

Current planning outlines Victorian vaccination hubs will be set up at Western Health, Austin Health, Monash Health, Barwon Health, Goulburn Valley (GV) Health, Latrobe Health, Bendigo Health, Ballarat Health and Albury-Wodonga Health.

Mr Mitchell said under the program, Mitchell Shire residents who qualified as high-risk, could face travel times of more than an hour to access the vaccine.

“Australia is trailing the rest of the world with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and increasingly there is concern regarding supply and delivery, a concern that is now being raised by members of our community,” he said.

“Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison told Australians we were first in the queue and that we’d have four million vaccinated by the end of March, but now it appears he’s walking back on that promise.

“Until we address the health crisis, we won’t be able to fully address the economic situation across the country, so the need for safe, timely and effective vaccine is vital for national security and confidence in our business community.”

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines will be available in phases, as defined by a Federal Government schedule that prioritises groups based on expert medical and public health advice.

Kilmore District Health chief executive David Naughton said GV Health would facilitate the vaccine rollout in the Mitchell Shire.

“[GV Health is] in charge of doing that across the region, and as per the commonwealth guidelines it’s divided into a whole range of different layers based on people’s priorities,” he said.

“Priority 1A is, for example, people in residential aged care, both frontline staff and residents. They’re coordinating how that will happen as soon as the vaccines start arriving.”

Mr Naughton said Kilmore District Health would liaise with GV Health and provide more information on the vaccination program as it received it.

“At this point one of the core things about accessing a vaccine is that there is a really clear communication about how it will work: that people know that they’re able to get the vaccine, that it will all be for free and that there’s a really standard, safe way of it being administered,” he said.

“There are several different groups that have been asked to apply to administer the vaccine – general practices and pharmacies in particular.

“From a state public health perspective, our job right now is to look after our staff and our residents, but obviously we’re really interested and involved in what happens at a community level as well.”

GV Health chief executive Matt Sharp said the organisation had been undertaking preparations in recent weeks to ensure they had the necessary arrangements in place to provide the vaccination rollout in the region.

“This has included ensuring we have the facilities to store the vaccines at the required temperature, identifying venues to administer the vaccine and also to ensure there is an adequate number of healthcare workers available,” he said.

“We are also in the process of identifying and training a number of healthcare workers to administer the vaccine. This also includes partnering with neighbouring health services across the region regarding the availability of their staff.”

Mr Sharp said factors such as ease of access for people being vaccinated, sufficient space to ensure safe operating, and infrastructure available for handling the vaccines were all considerations for GV Health when determining vaccination locations.

He said details of precisely where GV Health’s vaccine hub would be located and how the public could access it would be provided prior to the hub being activated.

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