The Australian Defence Force has deployed more than 100 personnel to help provide COVID-19 vaccinations to regional, remote and vulnerable communities in western NSW.
The assistance follows a request from Emergency Management Australia on behalf of the NSW State Emergency Operations Centre as the region faces a rapid increase in COVID-19 community transmissions.
Major Bethan Ganderton, a medical officer deployed on Operation COVID-19 Assist, said the primary role of her five vaccination outreach teams (VOT) was to augment NSW Health staff and provide vaccinations to the community.
“We launched the VOT program on August 21 at Pioneer Park in West Dubbo. We’ve provided nurses, medics, doctors, as well as logistics and support staff to this mass vaccination centre,” Major Ganderton said.
“Our goal is to vaccinate as many people from the community as possible.
“On the first day, we are likely to deliver more than 650 individual COVID-19 vaccine doses.”
Belinda Tracy, NSW Health Community Vaccination Program Manager for the Western Region Local Health District, said her staff found it easy working with ADF clinicians and support personnel.
“The ADF are supporting our small NSW Health crew with vaccinators, combined with an administrative and support role. After a short period of training and planning, we have found that the ADF members quickly master our systems. The integration has been seamless really,” Ms Tracy said.
Following the launch of the vaccination task in West Dubbo, the five ADF VOTs, supported by a NSW Australian Medical Assistance Team, will fan out across western NSW, helping in some of the region’s most remote communities, including areas where there is a large vulnerable Indigenous population.
Mr Isaac Compton, Wiradjuri man and an Indigenous adviser to the Dubbo Regional Council at the Pioneer Park vaccination centre, said the Dubbo region was home to an extensive Indigenous community.
“There are a lot of Aboriginal communities in Dubbo and surrounding, such as Gilgandra, Wellington, Narromine, Peak Hill,” Mr Compton said.
He said there was a pressing need for Aboriginal communities to get vaccinated.
“Aboriginal people are more susceptible to disease. Getting a vaccination for Indigenous people is a good idea,” he said.