Slow NT COVID-19 vaccine rollout expected

·2-min read

The Northern Territory may not be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until the end of the year, with remote communities set to challenge the rollout.

The first Pfizer vaccine jabs are expected to be administered to frontline staff in Darwin next week, Health Minister Natasha Fyles says.

Health workers and Howard Springs COVID-19 quarantine facility personnel will be among the first in the Top End to be vaccinated.

But people in remote communities will have to wait until health officials work out how to transport the fragile Pfizer vaccine vials - which must be stored at minus 70C - in the NT's extreme heat.

Or, wait until the more robust AstraZeneca vaccine becomes available.

"It will take until the end of the year to vaccinate all Territorians, I expect," Ms Fyles told reporters on Tuesday.

"In terms of those much smaller communities, we'll work through the rollout in coming months."

Administering the second dose of the vaccine to people in some remote NT areas is also expected to be difficult.

"Requiring people to come back in three weeks will certainly be a challenge for the transient population," Ms Fyles said.

Royal Darwin Hospital will be the hub for the first stage of the rollout to about 3000 people using the Pfizer vaccine.

Age and disability care residents, hospital staff and border control workers, including police and airport personnel, will also be prioritised during the first phase.

Alice Springs will become the second hub, with the second phase expected to start in mid-to-late March to health care workers not vaccinated in the first phase.

Territorians aged 70 and over, Indigenous Australians over 55, young adults with medical conditions or a disability, police, firefighters, emergency workers and Defence personnel will also be vaccinated.

It comes as the NT government gets set to introduce urgent legislation to amend the Territory's Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill 2021, when parliament returns on Tuesday.

The changes will allow all registered practitioners - who are qualified and trained to provide immunisations - to administer COVID-19 vaccines without gazettal.

It will also ensure places used to administer the vaccines will not need to be authorised or gazetted.

Meanwhile, the NT has revoked its hotspot declaration for Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport.

Greater Melbourne remains a hotspot as a virus cluster linked to the quarantine hotel continues to grow.