Local Covid vaccine rollout explained

Frank Evola, the MLHD’s Covid-19 Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) has this week outlined their plans for a local rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, due to begin mid-February, in four weeks’ time.

Dr Len Bruce, the MLHD’s Executive Director of Medical Services, said that there will be a staged rollout of the vaccination.

“Australia is in a great position; we’re not in the same position as Europe or the US, [so] we have time to have a staged rollout,” he said.

Dr Bruce said that the health district will have a distribution hub and that the vaccine rollout will be split into two stages – the first is for healthcare staff, and the second is for the rest of the community, managed by the Commonwealth Government.

Frank Evola, the MLHD’s Covid-19 Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator, said that the delivery of vaccinations is one of the core businesses within healthcare, so the health district is well positioned to deliver vaccines, even new ones such as the Covid jab.

“There’s obviously specific intricacies that come with delivering a vaccination that’s new to development, but we have robust systems in place both within the MLHD and at a State and Commonwealth level in regards to being able to monitor vaccine safety,” Mr Evola said.

“The rest of the world has already started delivering the vaccine, so we can follow in their footsteps and learn from any issues that have arisen from the Covid-19 vaccination, so we’re positioned very well in that respect.”

Mr Evola said that vaccination “overall is very safe”, and with the Covid vaccine being new, the health district will be “actively and aggressively” monitoring for any adverse effects, specifically anaphylaxis.

He stressed that MLHD staff are well trained in recognising and dealing with anaphylaxis.

“It’s something that we know how to handle and can handle very well,” Mr Evola said.

“With the anaphylaxis experiences overseas, it’s been early recognition and proper management [that] has been the key to success, and it’s something that we can easily manage.”

Mr Evola said that people should “absolutely” still come forward for Covid tests if symptoms arise after receiving the vaccination.

“The Pfizer vaccine seems to be far more effective than- I shouldn’t say far more, it seems to be more effective than the AstraZeneca vaccine, however there are individual intricacies, so you’re better safe than sorry, essentially.”

In terms of how to actually get the vaccine when the rollout begins, Mr Evola said that this is still being developed.

“Even within the MLHD we’re still working that out, but we have a bit of time to figure that out,” he said.

As planning continues, Mr Evola said that a “cautious” staged rollout is the way forward.

“When you’re talking about vaccine delivery to an entire population – you know, 25 million within Australia – there are challenges associated with that; however, we have robust internal networks [and] we deliver vaccines, medications throughout the district to all the hospitals on a regular basis,” he said.

“The Commonwealth and the ministry of health are taking a cautious approach with the rollout of this vaccine [and] given some of the nuances of the vaccine itself, we want to make sure that the vaccine we have is able to be delivered to the population, so we don’t want to lose vaccine due to mishandling.

“With that in mind, it’s going to be a staged rollout to make sure we understand fully how to manage this vaccine, because it is a new type of vaccine so we don’t want to- essentially we don’t want to stuff it up.”