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Covid-19 vaccine rollout commences in Clarence Valley

Emma Pritchard

“It didn’t hurt at all.”

Sitting comfortably inside the Grafton Base Hospital Ambulatory Care Centre with her sleeve rolled up, Dr Melinda Swan was one of the first Clarence Valley residents to receive their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on March 22.

Currently undertaking a 12-month training placement in the emergency department as a medical registrar, Dr Swan received her vaccination as part of the Phase 1a priority rollout, which includes aged care and disability care residents and staff, quarantine, border and frontline healthcare workers.

When asked how she felt about rolling up her sleeve, Dr Swan said it is important to be vaccinated in the fight against Covid-19.

“Vaccinations go a long way towards reducing infection, potential side effects and community transmission of viruses and diseases,” she said.

“I was quite happy to be vaccinated.”

“I think there will be reassurance within the community if more people receive a Covid-19 vaccine because people want to feel safe and protected.”

Dr Swan said the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the dynamics of many workplaces, but especially in medical centres and emergency departments where she aims to work full time upon completing her 12-month training placement.

She believes the Covid-19 vaccine will help to make all workplaces feel safe again.

Although she admitted good-naturedly that she didn’t exactly know how she came to be one of the first to sit in the chair and roll up her sleeve, she was happy to do it and she is encouraging other Clarence Valley residents to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Wayne Jones revealed he was happy to see the Covid-19 vaccine rollout get underway in the Clarence Valley and along with Dr Swan, he is urging locals to get vaccinated.

Roslyn Hollis, Clinical Nurse Consultant for Women’s Health and Authorised Covid-19 Vaccine Immunisation Administer, said the aim is to vaccinate more than 60 people per day.

Grafton resident Maree Baines said while she currently does not meet the essential criteria to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, she is eagerly awaiting her turn to receive the jab.

“I understand there are priority groups such as healthcare workers and the elderly who need to be vaccinated first because they are considered to be at a higher risk of getting Covid-19, but I will definitely be getting vaccinated when Phase 2b gets underway,” she said.

“I’m really over the moon to hear the vaccine rollout has started in the Clarence Valley.

“Vaccines have been proven to work and we need to do what we can to help keep everyone safe.”

March 22 also marked a significant milestone in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine with more than 1000 general practices beginning to administer vaccines to eligible patients under Phase 1b.

Like Phase 1a, Phase 2b also aims to vaccinate vulnerable patients including elderly Australians over the age of 70, other healthcare workers including drug and alcohol workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over the age of 55, younger adults with underlying health conditions and those living with a disability, and critical and high-risk workers such as emergency services personnel, defence, police, fire and meat processing workers.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Price said that the participation of general practices will play a key role in the vaccine rollout and described March 22 as a huge step forward in the fight against Covid-19

“I am one of many GPs participating in this pivotal phase of the vaccine rollout, which is protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” she said.

“Most Australians will get the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and many will want to be vaccinated by their usual GP, if they can.

“That makes sense because most Australians go to their GP for their other vaccinations, and many will do just that for their Covid-19 vaccine.”

After receiving their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, patients will wait approximately 12 weeks before receiving their second dose.

Further information regarding the Covid-19 vaccination rollout can be found at the Australian Covid-19 Vaccination Policy and the Covid-19 Vaccines National Rollout Strategy.

Photo 1: Dr Melina Swan smiles proudly after receiving her first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the Grafton Base Hospital Ambulatory Care Centre early on March 22. Image: Emma Pritchard

Photo 2: Roslyn Hollis, Clinical Nurse Consultant for Women’s Health and Authorised Covid-19 Vaccine Immunisation Administer, holds up one of the vials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

Image: Emma Pritchard