First COVID-19 vaccine administered in Murray Bridge

Doctor Caroline Phegan has become the first Australian to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A doctor in Murray Bridge has become the first Australian to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.

Dr Caroline Phegan received the jab at about 8am on Friday, signalling the beginning of its rollout to local health workers and aged care residents.

She said it didn’t hurt a bit.

She encouraged everyone to roll up their sleeves and “be part of the pandemic solution” when their turns came.

“I’m very excited,” she said.

“I now have started my journey for protection from coronavirus ... (which means) being able to provide protection to my coworkers, the community and my family.

“Working an emergency department as a GP, you are a frontline worker, you are exposed to many things that patients (have), community ailments, and it’s really important for those frontline workers to be protected ... so that we can continue to provide the healthcare the community needs.”

Local Health Network chief executive Wayne Champion said health care workers and aged care residents would be first in line to receive the 1000 doses of vaccine which arrived in Murray Bridge yesterday.

About 40 staff from Murray Bridge, Tailem Bend and other sites are expected to be immunised today.

In time, the LHN will administer the vaccine to residents of state-run aged care facilities such as the Tailem Bend hospital, while federal authorities will be responsible for all other aged care facilities, including Lerwin and Resthaven.

Enough doses will be kept in reserve to make sure everyone who receives their first dose will be able to get their second, final dose in about 12 weeks’ time.

Mr Champion said it was important for all Australians to get vaccinated when they could.

“It is the only way that we will end the pandemic,” he said.

“It’s important because it provides a level of protection for the person that receives it, and the fact that it protects the person that receives it prevents them from catching it and passing it on to someone else, even unknowingly.

“It then protects their loved ones around them and the rest of the community.”

The LHN had been preparing to distribute the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept in special freezers.

However, Mr Champion welcomed the opportunity to switch to the AstraZeneca vaccine when it came up during the past week: “it actually suits the region better in terms of ... the cold chain logistics issues”.

There was no particular reason Murray Bridge had been chosen to lead the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout, he said – only that the local health network had been “nimble, adaptive and ready to go”.

Gianni Ricci, Isabel Gundani, Karen Hollitt and Sharon Harrison welcome the arrival of the vaccine in Murray Bridge. Photo: Office of Stephen Wade.

Murray Bridge leads nation in vaccine rollout

The AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered to the Murray Bridge hospital on Thursday morning, less than a week after their arrival in Australia.

The hospital’s director of nursing and midwifery, Sharon Harrison, told invited media that the vaccines had been handled safely and securely since their arrival in Australia, with “cold chain” protocols followed carefully.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration provisionally approved the AstraZeneca jab for use in Australia back on February 16.

“Australians can be confident that the TGA’s review process of this vaccine was rigorous and of the highest standard,” the agency said in a statement.

“The decision to provisionally approve the vaccine was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines, an independent committee with expertise in scientific, medical and clinical fields, including consumer representation.”

The Pfizer vaccine was approved in January.

When will I get a vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to Australians in four phases:

  • Phase 1A: frontline health workers, aged and disability carers and residents

  • Phase 1B: other health care workers, people aged 70-plus, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55-plus, adults with underlying medical conditions, defence forces, emergency services, meat processing workers

  • Phase 2A: people aged 50-plus, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-plus, other at-risk workers

  • Phase 2B: people aged 18-plus

An extra phase will be added for people under the age of 18 if medical authorities recommend it.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of AstraZeneca.

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