The Northern Territory Government will offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone over the age of 16 starting today, in a massive effort that will reportedly see a new mass vaccination centre set up by the end of the month. But details remain vague.
The announcement by Chief Minister Michael Gunner will make the NT the first jurisdiction in Australia to offer the vaccine to the general population aged over 16, expanding on previous commitments that saw the jab offered to everyone in regional parts of the NT, including Katherine and Alice Springs.
The government said the new measures will mean 60,000 more Territorians will now have access to the vaccine, with a total that currently stands at over 13,000 to date.
The government is aiming to have all eligible Territorians receive the vaccine by the end of the year, however Mr Gunner did not elaborate on which vaccines would be made available and how quickly they would be administered.
The NT’s Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Charles Pain said about seven per cent of Territorians have been given a vaccine to date.
Dr Pain admits it is still “nowhere near what we need”.
Mr Gunner said the supply of the vaccine may not meet the immediate demand and appealed to the public to be patient.
He said the increased rollout was a “sensible decision” due to the region’s large Indigenous population.
“When you consider not just the makeup of the Darwin population, but how people move in and out of Darwin, it makes sense to treat us as you would a remote vaccination centre,” he said.
Mr Gunner also did not mention what brands of the vaccine have been allocated for the increased roll out, but COVID-19 project officer Antony King, who works at the Katherine-based Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service, told the ABC that young people are keen to have the Pfizer vaccine and that there had been “a lot of interest” in that vaccine.
The Chief Minister added that the mass clinic which could accommodate a high volume of people for the vaccination will be set up by July 1. He said they are anticipating a surge in demand from the young population.
Health Services such as Damila Dilba were already being inundated with calls yesterday.
It remains unclear how quickly the NT will be able secure adequate supplies of the vaccine to meet the expected demand.