Frontline health workers on the NSW South Coast began receiving the first COVID-19 vaccinations at South East Regional Hospital in Bega on Tuesday, 2 March.
Staff from Liverpool Hospital have travelled to the South Coast to manage the outreach clinic for health workers located between Batemans Bay and Bega.
Southern NSW Local Health District chief executive Margaret Bennett said it was a momentous occasion and an important turning point for a region that has faced significant challenges in recent years following drought, bushfires and floods.
“We are so pleased that our priority 1a health workers will be among the first Australians to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” she said.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly managing our local COVID-19 response. We are encouraged and relieved to know those frontline staff will all be immunised in coming weeks.”
Frontline workers in Bombala, Braidwood, Cooma, Delegate and Goulburn will be next to receive the jab at a new COVID-19 vaccination hub in Wollongong, which is due to open on Monday, 15 March.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently announced that hospitals in Wollongong, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour and Dubbo will be added to the list of approved vaccine hubs as the jab is rolled out in regional NSW.
These vaccination hubs will initially focus on frontline healthcare and border workers, and will eventually be followed by a wider rollout of the vaccine to the general public through the GP network.
“NSW is on track to achieve its goal of more than 35,000 vaccinations in the first three weeks, with thousands of frontline workers already receiving their first doses,” said Premier Berejiklian.
The announcement followed criticism from health workers in regional NSW, who were initially told they would have to endure up to a 12-hour round trip to Sydney to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Region Media obtained an email that showed doctors and nurses working as far south as Eden and Bega were being told to take time off work to attend a clinic in Liverpool, Sydney, to receive the jab.
However, following conversations between Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain and Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt, it was agreed that Liverpool Hospital vaccinators would travel to South East Regional Hospital in Bega.
Dr Duncan Mackinnon, from South East Regional Hospital, said it was ‘fantastic’ that NSW Health and politicians listened to feedback from health workers, and that it made sense to distribute the vaccine locally.
Health workers in Yass and Queanbeyan have been receiving the vaccine at a clinic in the Canberra suburb of Garran since 22 February.
Workers in the Western NSW Local Health District can travel to Sydney to receive the COVID-19 jab as the local vaccine rollout hasn’t commenced yet.