Bendigo Health is looking forward to the challenges associated with delivering COVID-19 vaccines in the Loddon Mallee region, its infectious diseases physician says.
Dr Andrew Mahony, also the Bendigo Public Health Unit's clinical lead, said there were some technical challenges associated with administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to a lot of people, rapidly.
The vaccine, which is expected to arrive in Australia within weeks, needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius. It also needs to be administered in a relatively short time-frame.
Dr Mahony thought it likely large hospitals would be primarily responsible for administering the Pfizer vaccine, given the logistical challenges.
Planning for vaccination sites in the Loddon Mallee region is still underway.
The old Bendigo Hospital Emergency Department at Stewart Street is one of the possibilities being considered.
Dr Mahony expected the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the Australian Government has also secured, to be easier to roll out in the region because it did not have to be stored at ultra cool temperatures.
He was confident Bendigo Health and the Public Health Unit Bendigo were rising to the challenges associated with the vaccine roll-out.
"Bendigo Health has already put a call out to all our nurse immunisers who are already trained in administering vaccines," Dr Mahony said.
"We have our infection control team who are responsible for the staff vaccination program already, through the annual influenza vaccines that are given to thousands of staff here."
He expected staff with less expertise, but with training in giving vaccinations, would support the team's work, with oversight.
"It'll just broaden the throughput of our vaccination clinics," Dr Mahony said.
He wanted the community to know the vaccine was coming soon and was would to be available to all, free of charge.
"The whole process is being thought through very carefully," Dr Mahony said.
He said Australia was receiving data from overseas, where millions of people had already been vaccinated, which provided evidence about how well the vaccine worked and what to expect when it came to side effects.
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Dr Mahony said the side effects associated with the Pfizer vaccine - a sore arm and a fever - were common following vaccinations and were relatively minor, especially compared to getting COVID-19.
"Considering looking back a few months we didn't have these vaccines at all, we're gaining so much knowledge really quickly," he said.
"By the time the vaccines arrive in the next few weeks, we're going to know even more.
"We want people to know everything about them. There's nothing to hide.
"What we want to see is Australia being safe from COVID and eventually looking at getting back to the things we love to do in terms of travelling and having people from overseas visit us; getting the economy back on track... all this is part of what the vaccine is going to lead to".
VICTORIA'S coronavirus vaccination hubs will be ready to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to priority groups as soon as it becomes available, the state's health minister says.
Bendigo Health is one of the nine health services named as hub operators in Victoria.
Health minister Martin Foley on Wednesday confirmed the Victorian Government's support for the first phase of the federal government's vaccination program, which prioritises workers and community members most at risk from COVID-19.
The Pfizer vaccine is expected to be available by mid-to-late February.
"We're working on the basis that as soon as the vaccine is made available, we will be in a position to start that roll-out," Mr Foley said.
People eligible for the first phase of vaccinations include front line healthcare workers, workers and residents in aged care and disability care, quarantine and border workers, and all staff in the hotel quarantine program.
"Our priority is to make sure that any vaccine which becomes available can be administered to Victorians as quickly and safely as possible," Mr Foley said.
"The vaccine is safe, effective and free - and it will be provided first to those Victorians who are most at risk of infection or serious illness, such as people in aged care and our front line health staff."
The announcement comes as Victoria records 28 days without COVID-19 community transmission.
But Mr Foley said the pandemic had a long way to go, referencing the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths globally.
He said getting Victorians who were most at risk of infection vaccinated as soon as possible would protect the health of recipients, their families and the broader community.
"The Pfizer vaccine requires it to be produced, distributed and stored at ultra cold levels, at -70 degrees Celsius," Mr Foley said.
"This requires both specialist equipment, specialist distribution arrangements - the responsibility of the Commonwealth. They will then make that available to the hubs - the responsibility of the state.
"We will store it and we will distribute it from those nine hubs to the priority groups."
Mr Foley said the vaccine's distribution to private residential aged care workers and residents would be the responsibility of the federal government.
Public residential aged care sector vaccine distributions would be coordinated through the vaccine hubs.
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