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Further COVID-19 vaccine delivery to begin soon

HIGH-risk patients could be contacted by their medical clinic soon as COVID-19 vaccines start to become available in the coming weeks.

Active Health Portland is hoping to receive 80 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this Friday, March 19, which will be allocated to their patients.

However the date Active Health will be able to deliver the first vaccine is yet to be finalised.

Active Health staff are also liaising with other local medical clinics about the rollout according to the practice’s head GP Marg Garde.

“At the moment we are giving priority to people with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, chronic airways disease and other lung diseases and others at increased risk of complications from coronavirus,” Dr Garde said, noting that these are people defined as priority 1b in the nation’s vaccine delivery schedule.

“All people who wish to be immunised will ultimately receive their two doses of the vaccine.”

Dr Garde urged people not to “rush” for the vaccine and be patient.

“We don’t want people to make multiple calls asking when they are going to be immunised. Our protocol is that we will contact people in high-risk categories and offer the vaccination,” she said.

“There is no community transmission at this stage, so people don’t need to rush.”

Dr Garde said Active Health Portland had established a COVID-safe plan for the vaccinations, with small groups of four at a time to be immunised.

“The maximum number of people we will be able to vaccinate is about 40 to 50 in a day,” she added.

Many more deliveries of the vaccine are anticipated in the future.

Dr Garde urged everyone in the community to seriously consider taking the vaccine when it is available.

“The vaccines have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and are safe and effective,” she said.

COVID-19 vaccines will be made available for free for everyone living in Australia.

The AstraZeneca vaccine does not require extremely cold temperatures to remain viable; Australia’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine - from Pfizer - requires storage of minus 70 degrees and was delivered into the arms of 150 prioritised Portland residents at Portland District Health on March 1 and 2.

Portland District Health chief executive Chris Giles anticipates those first 150 vaccine recipients will receive their second vaccination dose in the coming weeks.

Another round would also be made available for priority 1b staff, she added.

“We are working through priority cases until get we more vaccinations. We will ready as more supply becomes available, but at this stage we don’t know when it will be more broadly available for the general public,” Ms Giles said.

Dr Garde urged everyone in the community to continue COVID-safe practices including hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing etiquette, social distancing and mask wearing where necessary.

Regardless of whether they have been immunised, members of the community need to remain vigilant about these measures, she added.

* Seaport Medical Centre and Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service (DWECHS) will also be delivering vaccines to priority patients as soon as they become available, and are also urging people to hold off on calling their practices to book an appointment.

Clinic staff will instead contact eligible patients to schedule a vaccination time.

Portland’s other GP clinic, Portland Family Practice, was contacted for comment.

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