Top End vaccine rollout ready to go

·2-min read

Health workers and staff at the Howard Springs COVID-19 quarantine facility will be among the first Northern Territorians vaccinated against the virus.

The first Pfizer vaccine jabs are expected to be administered next week although which day is still being worked out with the federal government, Chief Minister Michael Gunner says.

Age and disability care residents, hospital staff and border control workers, including police and airport personnel, will also be prioritised during the first stage of the vaccine rollout to about 3000 people.

"We are starting small but the most important thing is, we are starting," Mr Gunner told reporters on Monday.

"Phase 1A covers our most vulnerable and at-risk frontline workers based on expert health advice.

"We aren't releasing the full plan yet because nobody has the full plan yet.

"This is the largest and most complex vaccine rollout seen in the Territory, in the country, in the world."

Logistics for rolling out the vaccine to remote Indigenous communities are still being worked out.

"The Commonwealth will be a huge part of the rollout in the Territory, more so than any other jurisdiction given the unique challenges we face here," Mr Gunner said.

"We will need to implement some pretty complex storage and delivery methods across the Territory."

Royal Darwin Hospital will be the hub for the first phase of the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70C.

Breaking down the Pfizer trays of 50 vaccine vials - which are very fragile and cannot be shaken - is also expected to be challenging.

Mr Gunner said the Commonwealth's second allocation of vaccine should allow NT Health to deliver the second dose of the virus to the first recipients and start on the second phase of the rollout about 21 days after the first jabs are administered.

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: police, firefighters emergency workers and Defence personnel.

Territorians aged 70 and over, Indigenous Australians over 55 and young adults with medical conditions or a disability will also be vaccinated.

Currently, only Darwin and Alice Springs have facilities able to store the vaccine at Pfizer vaccine.

Territorians are also expected to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine once the Therapeutics Good Administration review is completed.

Its less extreme refrigeration temperature requirements are likely to see it used in remote communities.

Vaccine rollout chief Michelle McKay said health officials were awaiting more information from vaccine manufacturers and the Commonwealth about safely transporting the vaccines.

General practitioners and Aboriginal health clinics are expected to deliver the jabs.

Darwin may also become a hub for Australia to roll the vaccine out to other nations.