North Coast

Image: Pixabay

Region’s COVID-19 vaccine demand continues to rise

COVID-19 vaccination rates on the North Coast continue to climb, with 60% of those eligible receiving their first dose and 32% their second, as of 29 August.

This compares to respective rates of 67% and 36% for NSW and 58% and 34% Australia-wide.

The number of first dose recipients is highest in the Port Macquarie-Hastings, Bellingen, Ballina and Nambucca local government areas, falling into a 60-70% band.

In the LGAs of Tweed, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Lismore, 50-60% of residents have received their first vaccine dose. The figure is 40-50% in the Byron Shire.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Julie Sturgess said additional supplies of the Pfizer vaccine due in September should see vaccination rates rise significantly.

‘North Coast rates of vaccination reflect the currently available dose supply,’ Ms Sturgess said. ‘For example, the Byron LGA has had a limited allocation compared to some other parts of our footprint. This is set to change later this month with increased supply for all LGAs expected.

‘In the past week, the forecast has again increased with more than 50,000 additional Pfizer vaccines expected to be available across northern NSW from mid-September to the end of October.

‘At the same time, the Mid North Coast will receive more than 60,000 extra Pfizer doses.’

Patience needed as demand grows

Healthy North Coast is calling for community members to be patient, respectful and kind to practice staff when trying to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.

North Coast medical practices are reporting their phone lines are extremely busy due to the overwhelming number of calls they are getting, as vaccine eligibility widens.

Ms Sturgess said the strong demand for vaccinations had been fuelled by the opening of eligibility to all people aged 16 to 39 for the Pfizer jab. Children aged 12-15 will also be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine from 13 September, further increasing demand.

‘Although demand currently outstrips supply, by October we’ll have more than twice as many weekly doses available to our communities,’ Ms Sturgess said.

Many medical practices have already put on extra staff to cope with up to 1,000 phone calls a day from people wanting a vaccination appointment. They are striving to help everyone at this stressful time and have asked for the public to be patient if they can’t get through.

Ms Sturgess stressed the importance of booking your jab appointment, even if it might be several weeks in advance.

‘As we wait for increased supply of Pfizer vaccines to our region, we would like to remind those people wishing to get their jab as soon as possible that there is a plentiful supply of AstraZeneca, and most people can get an appointment within a few days,’ she said.

‘AstraZeneca is the recommended vaccine for Australians over 60 and is licensed for use in all patients aged 18 and over. Seek advice from your GP if you’re concerned about receiving AstraZeneca.

‘Later this month, an additional 70 general practices will be delivering Pfizer vaccine as well as AstraZeneca. This will increase access to local GPs to book appointments and get protected from COVID-19.’

The best way for all people to find out when and where to book a vaccination is by going to the Department of Health website and using the Vaccine Eligibility Checker.