COVID-19 Vaccine rollout in Cairns – one week on

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is well underway in the Far North, with Cairns Hospital on track to vaccinate its 1000th person.

It has been a week since the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service started vaccinating frontline workers in the dedicated COVID-19 vaccine centre at Cairns Hospital.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath has today visited the Cairns Hospital Pfizer hub.

“It has been an incredible two weeks and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to see our hardworking staff in action at the Cairns vaccination hub,” Minister D’Ath said.

“The vaccine in this initial stage of the rollout will be administered to frontline workers in hotel quarantine, in our hospitals and at our ports and borders. “They’re the most vulnerable to infection and getting them vaccinated early on is a crucial part of our fight against COVID-19”.

Jo-Anne Campbell, Vaccine Clinical Nurse Consultant, said it had been an extraordinary seven days for the health service.

“It’s hard to imagine that just seven days ago, we were standing here vaccinating our first person, infectious disease physician Dr Simon Smith, as the first Hospital and Health Service in regional Queensland to become a Pfizer hub,” she said.

“We are now tipped to vaccinate our 1000th person on Saturday.

“This is an incredible milestone, considering it has been the same week we’ve had a cyclone looming off the coast.

“The fact that our dedicated staff have still made an effort to attend appointments to receive their COVID vaccinations whilst dealing with power outages and life disruptions, just proves how dedicated they are to protecting our community from the virus.”

Among these vaccine recipients are Chief Superintendent Chris Hodgman, and hotel quarantine worker Daryl Chung – who are both considered as frontline workers due to their proximity and regular contact with potentially infectious COVID patients.

Chief Superintendent Chris Hodgman has led the police response from the commencement of operations and has daily management of the hotel quarantine and airport officers, the team that escorts returning travellers from the Cairns International Airport to a quarantine hotel.

“I’m proud to stand here today alongside QHealth and Australian Defence Force workers on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19,” he said.

“In our line of work, we are at particular risk of being exposed to the virus.

“While we take every precaution necessary, this vaccine will give us an additional layer of protection and allow us to return safely to our families each day.”

Mr Chung, who works as a housekeeper in a local quarantine hotel, has daily tasks including delivering meals and other items to hotel room doors; and removal of rubbish; and stripping bed linen when a guest has departed their room.

He said he was keen to receive the vaccination, so he could keep his family safe.

“I’m scared of passing COVID-19 to my elderly mother or young son; when there has been a case in the hotel, I have purposefully avoided visiting my family in order to keep them safe,” he said.

“I’m in the COVID-19 firing line and I want to be protected by the vaccination.

“I actually want everyone to get vaccinated as this has been going on for too long now – let’s just get back to normal.”

These frontline workers will receive their second booster shot in three weeks’ time before further groups of people are vaccinated in the planned, staged approach.

Once the AstraZeneca the vaccine is available, more locations will come online, including hospitals, GPs and pharmacies.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said that the vaccine was an important part of the community’s defence against COVID-19.

“I am thrilled that the vaccine rollout has progressed in the North and look forward to rolling up my sleeve when my turn comes,” said Mr Healy.

“I strongly encourage everyone to keep up social distancing, good hand hygiene and take up the offer of the vaccine once it becomes available to you.”

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