Thousands of frontline workers across the country have begun receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The first Victorian to roll up their sleeve and receive the Pfizer vaccine on Monday at 7.30am was Rhonda Stuart, the head of infection control at Monash Health.
“I’m really proud to be getting this vaccine and starting the next chapter in our work against COVID,” she aid.
“Now the aim is to get all our healthcare workers vaccinated and then out to the public as well.”
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng wrote on Twitter: “Prof Stuart saw the first patient with COVID in Australia, treated the last patient in Victoria’s second wave and now has received the first COVID vaccine in Victoria!”
Each state and territory has received an allocation of the Pfizer vaccine. It is being administered to medical staff, hotel quarantine workers, airport and port workers, as well as aged care staff and residents.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall took to social media to say it was “great to get my jab”.
“It’s safe. It’s free. It’s voluntary,” he wrote.
The Premier, SA’s police commissioner and health officials leading the charge against COVID-19 have been among the first to get the coronavirus vaccine in the state.
After 4000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on Sunday, the long-awaited rollout began on Monday morning with SA targeting frontline workers in the initial phase.
In NSW, the rollout started at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred, Westmead and Liverpool hospitals, where uniformed police officers were among those lining up.
Some 500 recipients, deemed high-risk through their close work with confirmed and potential coronavirus cases, were given the jab at RPA, where Premier Gladys Berejiklian promoted the benefits of the vaccination.
“By the end of October, I hope everybody who is offered the vaccine in NSW, which should be the whole population, does have it by that time,” she said.
“It does mean we can think about the settings, overseas travel, easing of restrictions.”
“The people receiving the vaccine today have literally put their own health on the line every day. It’s easy for us to forget that. But I was just so overjoyed and overwhelmed that those who have protected all of us and welcomed home Australians were the first ones to get the jab.
“I can’t wait for when it’s my turn, when the AstraZeneca arrives, and I really hope that people take up the opportunity. It was enormous relief for me personally, because it is definitely a new phase in fighting COVID,” Ms Berejiklian said.
A thousand people are due to receive the vaccination on Monday at the three hospitals.
‘Amazing we’ve got to this stage’
Professor Stuart’s team treated Victoria’s first confirmed COVID-19 case in January 2020, and hundreds of others since.
“It’s 14 months since we saw the first patient. So amazing we’ve got to this stage where we can be vaccinating people to protect ourselves against it, it’s really wonderful,” she said.
About 100 health care workers will be vaccinated at Monash Medical Centre on Monday. It is one of three Victorian vaccine hubs.
Nurse Rachel Hogben, who manages the intensive care unit at Dandenong Hospital, said she felt relieved to receive the jab.
“I’m actually a little bit more emotional than I thought that I would be. Very relieved,” she said.
“I feel like this is the way forward … we’re no longer acting defensively against this, we’re now on the offensive and it’s an amazing day.”
Dr Cheng has said he hoped the vaccine rollout was the beginning of the end of the state’s long battle against COVID-19.
“There’s still a lot of work to do and it feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this starting line but I think it really gives us hope that you know this is starting to not be so much of an issue that it has been last year,” he told ABC’s Radio National.
Austin Health and Western Health will also begin administering the vaccine.
Other recipients in line to immediately receive the long-awaited coronavirus jab include hotel quarantine, airport and port workers, as well as aged care staff and residents.
The federal government is expected to allocate 59,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to Victoria over the first four weeks of the program.
It comes as Victoria recorded a third consecutive day with no local cases of COVID-19, following 8277 tests.
There are 25 active cases across the state.
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