The first inoculations against COVID-19 will take place in Victoria from February 15 - although it remains unclear if a vaccination site will be ready in Ballarat by then.
The first phase of the program, which will use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and was brought forward from March by the federal government last week, will target frontline healthcare workers, quarantine and border staff. Inoculations will also be provided for residents and staff of aged care and disability homes.
No vaccination site in Ballarat has yet been confirmed, but the DHHS said locations were still being finalised.
An "Epidemiology and COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap" published by the federal department of health pinpointed locations for inoculations. Seven initial hubs - nicknamed Pfizer Hubs - were marked on the map. These include three in Metropolitan Melbourne, with the others in Geelong, Bendigo, Mildura and Wodonga. There was no initial vaccination hub indicated for Ballarat.
However, a DHHS spokesperson said work was still underway to identify sites across Victoria.
"We'll have more to say when locations are finalised. Our priority is to make sure that any vaccine which becomes available can be administered to Victorians as quickly and safely as possible."
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A Ballarat respiratory clinic has also been earmarked for the vaccination effort - possibly at a later phase - while pharmacies are likely to play a role later in the year.
The CEO of UFS Dispensaries Lynne McLennan confirmed the federal government's interest, saying: "The Commonwealth respiratory clinics are well-placed to play a key role in delivering the vaccine program when it commences, and UFS has indicated that we would be pleased to assist the government in this program in the Ballarat area if required."
The UFS is currently running COVID-19 testing at a respiratory clinic in 15 Errard Street North, having transferred there from the Lucas Community Hub on December 21. Ms McLennan said it was too early to confirm whether vaccination would take place at the Errard Street address.
It is also unclear which vaccine(s) would be used here. Most of the later phases of the vaccination program are likely to rely on the University of Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine. It can be manufactured in Australia and kept at higher temperatures - although there have been concerns over its reported efficacy rate, which is lower than the Pfizer option according to some tests.
Neither the AstraZeneca vaccine nor the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine have yet been fully approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
However the Pfizer vaccine is thought to be the closest to achieving that. Its reported efficacy reaches as high as 90 per cent but it has to be manufactured overseas, and needs to be kept at around -70 degrees Celsius. Ten million doses are due to be supplied to Australia early this year, enough for five million complete vaccinations.
The federal health department's roadmap:
Pharmacy Daily, an industry newsletter, reported on Thursday that the Minister for Health Greg Hunt had said pharmacies would be involved in vaccinations for the later phase of the program.
Dates are not yet available on when the vaccine will be rolled out to the wider population. Vaccinations will not be mandatory.
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