SMH: COVID-19 vaccines for 35,000 NSW frontline workers within three weeks

More than 35,000 of Sydney’s frontline workers will roll up their sleeves to receive a COVID-19 vaccine within just three weeks from Monday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed quarantine workers – including nurses, doctors, police officers, security guards, and cleaners – would be the first to receive their initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The rollout will begin one week from the arrival of the first batch of doses in Australia on Monday.

Next in line will be healthcare workers whose work puts them at risk of being exposed to the virus, including staff at testing clinics, emergency departments, COVID-19 wards, intensive care units, and ambulance services, Ms Berejiklian said.

The vaccines will be administered by appointment at three central hubs located at Westmead, RPA and Liverpool hospitals, Ms Berejiklian confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Anyone who receives the vaccine will need a second dose a few weeks later.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the priority was to protect workers at greatest risk of coming into contact with the virus.

An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 workers across the quarantine system will be covered in the first three weeks. The balance will target other health workers.

“We think this is a healthy number to have vaccinated in the next three weeks to cover us, but obviously the more you do, the better,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Those eligible for the vaccine will be given a consent form and the opportunity to ask clinical staff questions about the vaccine and any underlying medical conditions they may have, Dr Chant said.

The known side effects associated with the Pfizer vaccine will be clearly described, she said.

Lachlan Prichard, a police officer with St George Local Area Command, said he was excited to get his vaccine, being one of the frontline workers most at risk of being exposed.

“The ability to have that is extra reassurance for me that when I go into the community and to my family that I am protected,” he said.

Bradley McEntee, a nurse manager for infection control in the quarantine system, said the vaccine was a step forward to returning to normal life and reconnecting with his family after shielding the community from the virus for more than 12 months.

Gayathry Vellangalloorat, a cleaning services manager in NSW’s Special Health Accommodation – where COVID-positive travellers are housed – said she felt privileged to be among the first people in Australia to receive the vaccine.

Ms Berejiklian said the government would have more to say about how the vaccine will be rolled out to the broader community in the next week.

The federal government is expected to release further information about the AstraZeneca vaccine after it was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration on Tuesday.

It is expected that the majority of the public will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine at this stage.

Ms Berejiklian said everyone who wants a vaccine will get one in due course.

The Premier said she would not be getting the vaccine early, despite her confidence in its efficacy.

“I would love to get mine early but I don’t think it’s fair. I think the people of the state would be upset if I jumped the queue, so I’ll wait my turn,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I’m certainly excited about when my turn comes up. I think the vast majority of the community are looking forward to our turn … but we have to protect those who are on the frontline first.”

Dr Chant said she was incredibly excited about the rollout and expected the population would come forward to receive their vaccines en masse.

“We’ve been in a good position that we’ve been able to wait [for] the international experience with the vaccine and learn from that,” she said.

“Being able to rationally engage with our colleagues in other nations to make sure that [this] goes as smoothly as possible in terms of implementation of the program.”

NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases from 23,463 tests in the latest 24-hour reporting period. It’s the 31st consecutive day of no community cases.

Queensland has recorded 41 days in a row of zero local cases while Victoria today recorded its first day of zero local transmission since February 9.

The stay-at-home order for people who have returned from Victoria to NSW is expected to expire today, Dr Chant said.

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