Territorians eligible for the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout started to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca shot today, while the Chief Minister and the NT’s Chief Health Officer volunteered for the jab to underscore government confidence in the vaccine’s safety.
NT Health has specified that the 1B rollout includes people over the age of 70, adults with specified underlying medical conditions, remaining health care workers, critical and high-risk workers such as police, fire, emergency services and meat processing workers.
This week, 10 GPs and three respiratory clinics will begin administering the vaccine as part of Phase 1B. Thirteen Aboriginal community health organisations will also begin providing the vaccine across the NT in the coming weeks, NT Health said.
Community vaccine clinics will also be established in Tennant Creek, Katherine and Gove where GP clinics have indicated they do not have the capacity to deliver the vaccination program as part of Phase 1B.
To date, 467 Territorians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. NT Health says they have used 5,083 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie were the first to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine Monday morning, with the press covering their inoculation.
“I want to give the public every confidence in AstraZeneca in its clinical safety,” Mr Gunner said.
“We have to remember the vaccine is free. It is safe, and it is effective, and a successful vaccination rollout is how we can all live and move freely again.
“It’s really important that everyone out there takes vaccinations, seriously. I feel good. I have a little 15-minute wait period just in case. But a very professional doctor, [I] didn’t feel the needle at all, I’m feeling okay now.”
Mr Gunner acknowledged that some Indigenous people have reservations about getting the vaccine but reiterated that it was safe.
“Let’s be clear, I’m not surprised that people in remote areas have questions, but we’re more than happy to answer those questions as we are anyone who’s living in an urban area.”
He also said that he’s concerned about the anti-vaxxers in the Territory and their propagations that may implicate the NT’s vaccination drive.
“I am worried about the information the anti-vaxxers put out there and what persuasion they may have,” he said.
AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish drugmaker headquartered in the United Kingdom, partnered with the University of Oxford to produce the COVID-19 vaccine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged the world to continue administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shots, adding its endorsement to that of European and British regulators after concerns over blood clotting.
European and British regulators earlier said that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s shot outweighed the risks, prompting various nations to lift their suspensions.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is especially important because it accounts for more than 90 per cent of the vaccines being distributed through COVAX,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to a WHO-led global vaccine-sharing scheme.
More than 17 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the United Kingdom and the European Union as of last week, with around 40 cases of blood clots reported.
Participating NT GP Clinics include:
Arafura Medical Casuarina
Arafura Medical Humpty Doo
Top End Medical in Palmerston
Territory Medical in Nightcliff
Pandanus Medical in Millner
Cavanagh Medical in Darwin
Bath Street Medical in Alice Springs
Mall Medical in Alice Springs
Palmerston GP Super Clinic Respiratory Clinic
Congress Respiratory Clinic in Alice Springs
Central Clinic Respiratory Clinic in Alice Springs