Vaccine program up and running in NSW

·3-min read

COVID vaccinations have begun in NSW with frontline health workers among the first to receive the jab.

Staff at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred, Westmead and Liverpool hospitals were the first to be given the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, with plans to vaccinate 35,000 frontline workers in the next three weeks.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has described the vaccine as a "game changer" in returning the state to pre-COVID life, with plans for the jab to be offered to everyone in NSW by the end of October.

NSW will use the Pfizer vaccine for the next three weeks, but after that most people will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Westmead Hospital emergency nurse Dante Canete was the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine at the western Sydney hospital.

The 48-year-old father of four, who helps to educate hospital staff on infection control measures, said, "this is for the entire world, let us heal altogether".

"I'm happy to be part of the first group because I can lead by example, share my experience and encourage others to get the vaccine," Mr Canete said.

"I am grateful to have an extra level of protection against COVID-19 and the rollout of the vaccine is a really important milestone for my colleagues and I in the fight against the virus."

NSW recorded 36 consecutive days without a local COVID-19 case, with the only case reported on Monday in an overseas traveller.

At the same time, NSW Health issued a warning to 161,000 southwest Sydney residents that traces of the virus had been found in sewage at the Glenfield treatment plant.

NSW Health has called on those who live and work in the 36 suburbs serviced by the plant to be vigilant, although it conceded traces of the virus can still appear in sewage even after people are no longer infectious.

The NSW rollout coincides with the federal government starting vaccinations in Australia's aged care facilities.

Ms Berejiklian said the vaccinations would not be mandatory at this stage, but she encouraged everyone to get the jab.

She said restrictions could ease if a critical mass of the population took up the vaccine.

"It does mean we can start thinking about overseas travel, we can start thinking about easing of restrictions," she said.

"It definitely means there's light at the end of the tunnel, and it definitely means I'm hoping we've come through the worst part of the pandemic."

Ms Berejiklian said she hoped only a "very small percentage" of people would not want the vaccine.

"There's always a minority who don't like to do something ... people who have got concerns," she said.

But NSW Labor said the government needs to do more to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Labor cited a Roy Morgan survey from December that showed more than one in ten people in NSW are not willing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

"The research shows there are still large numbers of people who are reluctant to get vaccinated. Lives and livelihoods depend on clear and consistent messaging," Labor's health spokesman Ryan Park said.

In the next three weeks the vaccine will be offered to all hotel quarantine workers including those screening arrivals at the airport, health staff, cleaners, NSW Police officers and security guards. The public will then be advised who is next in line.

Nineteen people are currently being treated in NSW for COVID-19, none of whom are in intensive care.